Why Raptors’ low-stakes loss to Celtics isn’t long-term concern


TORONTO – The Toronto Raptors weren’t required to go undefeated heading into the playoffs and weren’t expected to, but their quick 3-0 start once the NBA regular season resumed allowed to dream.

Alas. The Raptors are no longer perfect in the era of the pandemic, as they gave up a 122-100 decision to the Boston Celtics – their first loss since moving to Orlando, Fla., Breaking a seven-game winning streak that started in March. 3 with a victory over the Phoenix Suns.

Toronto started slow and never picked up the pace, looking disinterested on the defensive at times and appalling on offense as they shot just 33.8% from the ground for the first three quarters and failed to score. 40 points in the first half or 60 at the end of three. quarters.

At that point, the game was out of reach with Toronto trailing 91-57 to start the fourth quarter and both coaches agreeing to play an extended period of waste, which the Raptors have mostly only done this year in as a winning team.

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“It was difficult to score, right?” said Raptors head coach Nick Nurse. “… I think we had 19 lines in the first half and I’m trying to think of which ones I wouldn’t have wanted us to take.

“Maybe there was one we had to throw up or something, a stopwatch thing. The others were pretty good and I think it hurt us that we didn’t run over them. It put us off a little.

“We played pretty good defense early on, like the other night, but we just couldn’t get an offense to energize us.

“Give them credit, they were moving, they were active, but you have to step in and do some of those punches if you want to beat a good team. ”

The good news for Toronto is what could have been a game-changer, and it looked like it would when the eight-game league table schedule was released, took place in 2020 – as in, it didn’t happen. is not unrolled according to plan.

The year has been nothing if not unpredictable and by the time the Raptors and Celtics finally connected to complete their regular season streak, the game itself – despite its plot as a potential playoff preview – lacked a certain degree of urgency. Toronto had pushed its lead over Boston for the second seed to 4.5 games by being perfect in bubble play, off the Celtics’ 2-2 mark.

The result was the Raptors’ “magic number” to clinch second place overall – a single loss to the Celtics or a victory to the Raptors would do the job. With four games to go and an embarrassing loss to get rid of, you should expect the Raptors to wrap this up soon, perhaps Sunday against the Memphis Grizzlies.

With the Celtics’ game advantage, there wasn’t much to be learned from the competition for future reference.

As an example, the Raptors have made science this season by manipulating their defensive covers to take the stars out of their game with great success. The likes of Anthony Davis, LeBron James, James Harden and Damian Lillard are on the list of elite scorers the Raptors have held 10 points – or more – below their season average.

The Celtics have three dangerous offensive weapons: Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker – the only three players to average at least 20 points per game on a team.

And among them Tatum has emerged as a deadly threat, showing signs in his third season of becoming an MVP-level player, as indicated by the 31 points from a game he averaged in February, taking over. when Walker was struggling with a knee problem.

But with the playoffs looming, there was little chance the Raptors – or Celtics for that matter – would show all of their cards on a Friday night in Orlando.

“It looks like the shot, it can take you one-on-one and sit down and shoot the three above you. He is also able to go to the edge. And he mixes that up, ”Nurse said in awe of Tatum ahead of the game. “… We will try to keep it hard.” I’m not sure if there is anything more than that – at this point – we have planned. We just hope we can try to contain it a bit.

It was a goal the Raptors were able to achieve by holding Tatum 18 points on 14 shots, but it was one of the few encouraging stories to emerge from scoring the box and it’s probably overrated.

The Raptors have never put the Celtics on their heels and neither Tatum nor anyone else wearing a Celtics uniform has ever been tested.

The Raptors reduced Boston’s halftime lead from 15 points to 10 early in the third, but Boston responded with a 21-7 run that virtually ended the night.

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And on the other end, the Raptors certainly haven’t tested the Celtics. Fred VanVleet led the Raptors with 13 points but was 4 of 14 off the floor. The Raptors have given up 26 points on 18 turnovers.

“I thought we did a great job in the second half and giving a little boost, but we dug a little hole defensively,” said Norman Powell. “… We didn’t play as well as we would like at this end, and that kind of came down to our offense by not making any shots and you miss out on easy shots – layups or whatever. , or you think you should ”I got a call – and they came down and they bury a three. And then you go back down and miss another hit that should have gone in or whatever, it went in and out, then they came back down and they hit three more.

“So you just have to find a way to weather this storm.” I think we’ve done a great job being here and throughout the year to do it, but it’s a bit difficult when you go 10 to 38 out of three and you really can’t find the hole.

The proof was in the soup from the start.

It might have been a case of pre-playoff stage fright or a few prize fighters feeling each other before settling in for slugfest, but wow, the first quarter was really bad – for both teams.

The Raptors were a bit worse as they were trailing 21-14 after shooting just 6 of 25 off the ground in the first 12 minutes. They couldn’t reach the free throw line; were only 2 out of 11 out of three which was problematic because otherwise they couldn’t shoot. Throwing three turnovers and it had the profile of a game that could have ended before the start of the second quarter. Thankfully the Celtics weren’t sharper as they were 10 of 25 off the floor and more specifically 1 of 12 of three.

It wasn’t the Raptors’ defense that was the problem as they limited Boston to a respectable total in the first half while keeping them at 42 percent shooting.

But offensively, Toronto was in bad shape – their 37 points in the first half marked a new season low as they shot just 33.3 percent from the ground and 3 of 18 from deep.

It had been a while since the Raptors left the ground with so little reason to rejoice, but it had to happen. Better to lose the series of the season to the Celtics 1-3 than fall behind by that margin in a series that really matters when the playoffs finally roll.


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