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Boston Celtics

5 takeaways from the Toronto Raptors' 117-108 hard-fought loss against Boston Celtics

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Kyrie Irving and Kawhi Leonard both made big plays for their teams down the stretch (NBA Getty Images)

The Boston Celtics took a 2-1 regular season series lead over the Toronto Raptors in a thrilling 117-108 finish at the TD Garden in Boston.

These teams will face off one more time on Tuesday, Feb. 26 in Toronto.

Here are your takeaways from Wednesday's tight matchup...

Kawhi and Kyrie go to battle

Each team's superstar held their own in this one, there is no questioning that.

Leonard finished with 33 points, four rebounds, four steals and two assists shooting 52.6 percent from the field and knocking down all 11 of his free throw attempts.

Irving finished with 27 points, a career-high 18 assists, five rebounds, one steal and one block shooting 57.9 percent from the field burying three of his six 3-point attempts.

But it wasn't their stat lines that stood out - it was their back-and-forth clutch buckets down the stretch of this game doing all they could to try and will their team to victory.

Leonard buried a pair of clutch jumpers to give his team a lead with under six minutes to go. When Irving countered those with a tough and-1 finish, Kawhi came right back with a clutch 3-pointer to go up four with just under five minutes to play. Leonard did it again with an and-1 of his own to put the Raptors up four with 4:22 remaining but it was all Irving from that moment forward.

Kyrie assisted a Tatum 3-pointer, hit a clutch step-back over Ibaka, then hit a 31-foot bomb that essentially finished Toronto. He then assisted on the Celtics' last three buckets of the game to seal the deal.

Irving scored or assisted on 24 of the Celtics' 30 points in the final quarter.

Leonard scored 12 points to Irving's 10 points and six assists in the fourth quarter - these two brought each other's game to another level tonight.

Celtics huge second quarter

After the Raptors used a solid first quarter to get out to a six point lead, the Celtics came out gunning to start the second quarter.

They went on a 21-6 run in the first nine minutes of the quarter and the TD Garden responded accordingly. Behind a rocking home crowd the Celtics stepped things up on the defensive end forcing the Raptors to get back-to-back shot clock violations to spark the run.

Toronto shot 28.6 percent from the field, going 0-for-9 from long range in the quarter with only three players (Kawhi Leonard, Serge Ibaka and Greg Monroe) scoring points.

The Celtics used a balanced attack as seven guys scored in the quarter with Gordon Hayward's nine points and Kyrie Irving's three assists leading the way.

It seemed like every shot they put up was falling and the numbers match that - 61.9 percent from the field and 44.4 percent from 3-point land - while also outrebounding the Raptors 15-6. They doubled Toronto's scoring total, outscoring the Raptors 34-17 in the frame.

Raptors' assist numbers

The Raptors finished with 20 assists as a team, just two more than Irving's total for the night.

Six of the Raptors' 13 losses this season have come in games they finish with 20 or fewer assists. Even more stifling: 11 of their 13 losses have come in games where they were out-assisted by their opponent. Their record when they have more assists than the competition? 21-2.

Tonight, they were only four assists under their season average but at times they looked reliant on isolation basketball and forced shots off the dribble. The ball was sticking more than usual and there weren't many possessions of multiple passes leading to open shots. That helps explain the poor 3-point shooting, which is a reoccurance in most of the Raptors' losses this season.

Bringing us to...

Poor 3-point shooting

As I mentioned above, the Raptors' were not moving the ball to get open shots and it resulted in a lot of contested shots late in the shot clock. Their 3-point shooting numbers for the night followed accordingly.

Toronto shot 7-for-29 from long range marking at 24.1 percent. In nine of their 13 losses, they shot a worse percentage than their opponent from distance. It's also worth noting that they are 1-6 this season when shooting under 25.0 percent from three.

Outside of Danny Green's three made 3-pointers, the rest of the team went a combined 4-for-21 (19.0 percent). The Raptors' other three best three-point shooters Leonard, Lowry and Fred VanVleet shot 3-for-15.

Games like this are a killer for a team that gets a huge boost from their perimeter shooting on most nights. They're 19-4 when they convert more threes than their opponent and tonight, their outside shot nearly took them out of the game.

Bench scoring

The Raptors' bench was outscored 39-22 with two players combining for their bench scoring total.

Norm Powell and Greg Monroe finished 11 points apiece while VanVleet and Delon Wright went a combined 0-for-6 from the field. Nick Nurse only played nine guys in this one but when the Celtics got 18 points off the bench from Gordon Hayward it left Toronto needing more from their second unit.

Boston got an efficient nine points from Aron Baynes and five points from Terry Rozier while Jaylen Brown chipped in seven to add to the total. The absence of Jonas Valanciunas has hurt their bench scoring numbers, leaving a 13 points per game absence to make up for on a nightly basis.

Monroe, who also had nine boards, and Powell gave Toronto quality minutes but when they're facing off against a team with the same, if not more depth it presents a disadvantage when VanVleet and Wright have games like they did tonight.

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