After two huge trades and a tough overtime defeat against the Pacers on Friday, the Celtics were in the unenviable position of facing off against the Atlantic division leaders in the Toronto Raptors. Coming out with the same starting lineup that they used against the Pistons, they were able to stick with the Raptors early on. The Celtics put an end to the trend of starting games with sloppy play, and half way through the first quarter they were up 13-7. Late in the first, the Raptors went on a run of their own to cut the deficit to 2. Within about 20 seconds of being in the game, Marcus Smart hit a corner 3 and then had a hockey assist to put an end to that run. Smart had a chance to extend the lead to 9 points right before the end of the first quarter, but after coming up with a steal, he made a bad pass in a 2-on-1 situation that led to a turnover. At the end of the first quarter, the Celtics led 26-19.
Throughout the first half of the second quarter, the Celtics went tit for tat with the Raptors. At the half way point, the Celtics still led by 7 up 38-31. The ball movement in the second unit looked really good throughout the late first and early second quarter. Marcus Smart looks more and more comfortable every game, and he seems to have developed some chemistry with second unit guys like Olynyk and Bass. Smart was part of a unit that got the lead as high as 9 points during the second quarter, but the Raptors were able to use offensive rebounding and three point shooting to dissipate the lead pretty quickly. Once the starting lineup came back in, the Celtics started to play extremely sloppy basketball. After a 9-0 run by the Raptors to tie the game 40-40, the Celtics committed 3 straight turnovers followed by an Evan Turner air ball. Fortunately for the Celtics, they were able to buckle down defensively and only allowed 3 points during that stretch. An Avery Bradley 3-pointer once again tied the game back up. Unfortunately, Avery's 3 pointer was the only shot the Celtics were able to put on the board in the last 5-1/2 minutes, and the Raptors closed out the half on a 16-3 run to take a 47-43 lead. Bradley was the Celtics high scorer in the first half with 10 points, but it took him 9 shots to do it. Olynyk seems to have worked his way out of his brutal slump and scored 8 points on 3/4 shooting.
The Celtics starting off the second half making their first 5 shots. However, a lack of defense and defensive rebounding from the starting unit just killed that group's chances of effectively cutting into the lead. The Celtics struggled to close out on shooters throughout the third quarter, and the lead just continued to grow. Although there is no excuse for the lack of defensive execution, the Raptors were doing a great job of attacking the basket and kicking out to open shooters. Lowry seemingly got into the lane at will. The Celtics shot 46.7% from the field over the first 3 quarters compared to 44.4% from the Raptors. Between missed free throws (5/11 to 10/12 for the Raptors), turnovers (15-9 in favor of the Raptors), rebounds (38-32 in favor of the Raptors), and three point shooting (Raptors were 8/19 to the Celtics 4/10), the Celtics ended the third quarter down 82-65.
Marcus Smart, Brandon Bass, and Kelly Olynyk came out in the fourth quarter on a mission to decimate the Raptors' 17 point lead. Olynyk started off the quarter with a patented Dirk one-legged fadeaway. After a Lou Williams three, Brandon Bass got 2 straight dunks, Pressey hit 2 free throws, and Smart hit two close buckets to close out a 10-0 run. Kyle Lowry decided he didn't like that, and he ended the run by attacking our undersized front line. He proceeded to take over the game after that by driving and kicking as well as hitting open shots. The Celtics put Phil Pressey on him while Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley were both on the court, and Kyle Lowry was able to take full advantage. With 4 minutes left in the game, the Celtics were down 104-86 despite having a higher field goal percentage. The Celtics never let down and had some promising play out of some of our young guys down the stretch, but they ended up losing 109-96. They shot 47% from the field versus 45.1% from Toronto, but the Raptors were much more effective from the 3 point line. They shot 13/30 for the game versus 6/18 for the Celtics. Rebounding, turnovers, three point shooting, and free throws doomed the Celtics in what ended up being a 13 point loss.
Player of the Game:
The Celtics player of the game had to be Kelly Olynyk. He finally broke out of a brutal slump for 23 points on 8-11 from the field to go along with 5 rebounds and 2 assists. He ended up with 4 turnovers, but I am happy to see that he has gotten his scoring touch back. Another player of note was Marcus Smart. He ended up with 10 points on 5/7 shooting. He also play some pretty good defense on Lowry who absolutely owned him during the preseason. Smart actually attacked the basket successfully multiple times during the second half, and I'm hoping he will continue to attack moving into the future.