The Toronto Raptors improved to 16-7 Friday night following a 101-94 victory over the competitive Boston Celtics. This would mark the 7th win in the last 8 games for the Toronto Raptors, as they continue to sit at #2 in the Eastern Conference behind the Cleveland Cavaliers. DeRozan and Lowry led the way once again, combining for 58 points. Both players made key free throws down the stretch to officially seal the game and prevent what looked like a 4th quarter Celtics comeback. It was also a season-high for Kyle Lowry who finished with 34 points and continues to find his groove and knock down shots from any location on the court. Jonas Valancuinas and Patrick Patterson each finished with 10 rebounds and Cory Joseph contributed 6 points off the bench. The Celtics were without their all-star point guard Isaiah Thomas, who missed his second straight game with a sore groin. Al Horford and Avery Bradley led the Celtics in scoring each finishing with 19 points, while Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier each contributed 12 points. This was the first match-up of the season between the top 2 Atlantic Division contenders.

Lowry and DeRozan putting up big scoring numbers has become a consistent trend with no surprise. The 2x all-star back-court duo are both averaging over 20 points a game and have the Raptors ranked 3rd in the NBA in scoring with 111.5, 3rd only to the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets. However, it was defence that won the game for the Raptors against the Celtics, led by wingman Norman Powell. On the second game of a back-to-back, the Raptors came out of the gate looking tired and flat on both ends of the floor. They headed into halftime with an 8 point deficit. Then it looked like a completely different ball club in the 3rd quarter. The Raptors locked down on defence, forcing tough shots which led to easier buckets on the offensive end. Norman Powell finished with 5 steals and also scored a season-high 20 points in his 4th start of the season. DeMarre Carroll continues to sit out on the second game of back-to-backs, as Head Coach Dwane Casey remains cautious due to Carroll’s knee injuries over the last few years. The 20 points by Norman Powell marked the second straight game where 3 Raptor players scored 20+ points (Jonas Valancuinas scored 20 points Thursday night against the Minnesota Timberwolves).

There is simply no fear in the mind of Norman Powell, now in his second NBA season. He shoots the ball with confidence and does not back down against any opponent, whether it’s a savvy veteran like Avery Bradley or a superstar stud like Russell Westbrook. Oh and don’t let the mean muggin’ and old man beard fool you, this kid is only 23 years old! Drafted in the second round back in 2015, he is nothing short of a steal. The Raptors had parted ways with key bench player Grevis Vasquez to acquire the UCLA product. Upon signing with the Raptors, Powell showed promise when he shined in both the NBA Summer-League and Raptors 905 D-League. When Carroll was battling injuries last season, Powell stepped up and appeared in 49 games, averaging 5.6 points and 2.3 rebounds. He was also named the April Rookie of the Month when he capped off the regular season with a 30 point performance against the Brooklyn Nets. His energy then became key in the playoffs, when he helped the Raptors win their first 7-game playoff series in franchise history.

DeMarre Caroll is expected to return to action Monday night when the Raptors return home to host the Milwaukee Bucks. This will be the second match-up between the dinosaurs and the deer, with Toronto winning the first header 105-99. As stated in the post-game interview, Powell is ready no matter what his expectations are for the game. Whether it’s being inserted into the starting line-up or playing limited minutes off the bench, you can expect Powell to go full speed on every possession with the UTMOST confidence. This is a great sign for the future of the Raptors with having a determined 23 year old who embraces the moment. Monday’s game will tip-off live at 7:30 p.m. Eastern. Check and @atbnews for the latest game analysis and highlights.