TORONTO (Reuters) - The Toronto Raptors finally sent an opening night crowd home with a smile and a win when they held on to beat the Boston Celtics 93-87 to raise the curtain on a new National Basketball Association season on Wednesday.
Rudy Gay had 19 points and pulled down eight rebounds to pace the Raptors while Amir Johnson and DeMar DeRozan each chipped in with 13 as Toronto ended a run of three straight home opening losses.
“It was the first game of the season and we’re coming off a whole week without playing,” Gay said.
“So I think we were a little rusty at the beginning. We shook the rust off and came back.”
The loss was the first of what is expected to be many for the Celtics after they dismantled their team in the wake last year’s first round playoff exit by trading away Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce - the last two members of the Big Three who had led them to two NBA finals and one title.
The Celtics fielded a lineup of unfamiliar names and Jeff Green led the scoring with a game high 25 points, while Brandon Bass added 17 and Brazilian Vitor Faverani 13.
“We had some sloppy moments but a lot of them were out of effort,” said Celtics first-year coach Brad Stevens.
“A lot of them while we were flying down the court at two levels too fast and we made a few errors.
“But you know you can live with a few errors like that, you can live with errors when you are playing hard.”
Celtics supporters can only hope they will not be tested in the same way Raptors fans have since the last time the franchise made the playoffs in 2008.
For a moment on Wednesday it was as if nothing had changed, the Celtics raced to 6-0 lead to take the buzz out of the opening night festivities even before the smoke from the pre-game pyrotechnics had lifted from the court.
But by the half the party was back in full swing at a soldout Air Canada Centre with the Raptors comfortably ahead 49-37.
A third quarter fight back saw the Celtics erase a 16 point Toronto lead to pull level at 71-71 and keep things interesting through the fourth but it was Toronto celebrating the win.
“We fought,” said Green. “We fought, it didn’t matter how many we were down.
“We tied the game and then we took the lead. But we had a few costly turnovers that set us back. But as long as we keep fighting I think we’ll be in a lot of games.”
Editing by Nick Mulvenney