As Mike Gorman mentioned late in the third quarter of tonight's Atlantic Division battle between the Celtics and Raptors, "this wasn't the cleanest game in the world, but it's fun to watch."
Well, it was for the majority of the game. Then it just got ugly.
Both sides came out very aggressive from the jump, but struggled to connect from the field early and because of the competitive nature of the game, both squads were forced into a lot of difficult shots. As a result, Toronto shot just 6-22 (27%) in the first quarter. Avery Bradley especially did an outstanding job on DeMar DeRozan in the first half, making life tough for him with the ball in his hands and limiting what he was able to do with the dribble.
Toronto did, however, make up for it by knocking down seven threes in the first half to go along with burying 21 out of 24 free throws. The starting backcourt of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry lead the way, shooting eight apiece. Boston was aggressive defensively, but got broken down off the dribble and were perhaps too physical around the rim.
Isaiah Thomas and former Raptor Amir Johnson provided a huge lift in the first half, combining for 21 points, while Jae Crowder was all over the place making plays and creating extra possessions. The Celtics accumulated 14 assists on 18 first half field goals, as they headed into the locker room knotted up with a 54-54 halftime draw.
Unfortunately, the Celtics came out extremely stagnant to open the second half and they allowed Toronto to get out in transition due to their sloppy play, helping the opposition established a serious offensive rhythm that was never remedied. Toronto continued to shoot the ball well from beyond the arc, especially DeMarre Carroll (4-7), and Boston's starting unit never got anything going offensively all night long.
Toronto's third quarter surge put 30 points on the board, and they carried that energy into the beginning of the fourth quarter to make matters worse. Boston never backed down and continued to fight, but they put themselves into a big hole and never dug themselves out.
Toronto's perimeter rotation absolutely manhandled Boston all night long. The starting perimeter trio of DeMarre Carroll, DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry combined for 58 points, 19 rebounds and 17 assists while both DeRozan and Lowry shot a combined 8-26, yet each earned double-digit attempts at the free throw line.
Terrence Ross provided a huge lift off of the Toronto bench, scoring 13 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter. Everybody knows Ross for his play above the rim, but the guy has really improved his mid-range game and his ability to knock down shots on the move.
To sum it up, there was very little flow involved in this game, thanks to 61 fouls and 76 free throws, and the Celtics were never able to establish any kind of consistent rhythm on the offensive end of the floor (38% FG). Toronto took advantage of Boston's defensive breakdowns, attacked the rim at will, got to the line relentlessly, knocked down 11 threes from beyond the arc and were +15 on the glass.
The effort was there, but the execution was nothing to write home about and the Celtics made a lot of mental mistakes on both ends of the floor. To put it lightly, coach Stevens has plenty to talk about in the film room tomorrow.
CELTIC OF THE GAME
25 points, 7 assists, 7-16 FG, 10-11 FT
LOOKING AHEAD - The Celtics will be back in action on Sunday afternoon, where they'll host the reloaded San Antonio Spurs at the TD Garden at 3:30 pm ET.