The game in a nutshell - it's hard to win when the other team shoots 55% from the floor.
Despite a pretty successful offensive showing from the Celtics, they were not able to pull out a victory against the Toronto Raptors last night in Toronto's Air Canada Centre.
Right out of the gate, energy seemed to be a key problem for Boston, as Luis Scola was able to beat everyone down the court in transition on two quick runs. Scola is a heck of a player, but he's no spring chicken, and allowing him back-to-back baskets by not sprinting back on D is not a great way to start the game. Coach Stevens brought Tyler Zeller into the game in the first, both for energy and to combat the size of Jonas Valanciunas. While Zeller was able to play some passable defense on the big man, he went 2-6 in his 7 minutes of action.
Going back to the bench, Stevens finally found the energy he needed in Marcus Smart, Kelly Olynyk, and Jonas Jerebko. Olynyk and Smart continued their stretch of strong bench play, and it was their energy and aggressiveness (as well as JJ's hot shooting) that helped bring the Celtics back into this game at the start of the second quarter.
Their hard working attitude was contagious, and Avery Bradley caught on quickly. His breakaway dunk towards the end of the second quarter gave the Celtics their first lead of the game. They didn't let up, and were able to take a 62-56 lead into halftime.
Unfortunately, Boston was not able to hold the lead in the second half. Demar DeRozan and Jonas Valanciunas picked the C's apart in the second half. DeRozan was masterful as a driver, slasher, and mid-range shooter, and his game looked even better than his final 13-25 shooting line. Meanwhile, we had no answer for Valanciunas down low - he went 9-9 in the game, and pulled down 12 boards.
Down by 6 to start the 4th quarter, the contest was very back and forth, with Olynyk and Smart still playing very aggressive team basketball. However, about halfway through the final frame, Boston slowed down its movement, and started going to Isaiah Thomas very often, with six shots in a row being taken by the dynamic point guard. Bradley, Crowder, and Olynyk all scored in the waning minutes (a good sign, says this observer) but it was not enough to overcome the sweet shooting (particularly two clutch threes) of the Raptors.
- Olynyk continued his very strong play off of the bench. He injected energetic and aggressive offense, and it wasn't just his smooth shooting. He worked the drive-and-kick tonight multiple times tonight, and it paid dividends for the team in the form of open threes.
- Marcus Smart also had a great night off the bench, although you wouldn't know it so much from looking at his stats. As always, he brought much-needed fire to the court, but he also played with more offensive restraint than he has in the past. Instead of driving through three people, he made a move when he saw a lane. Instead of jacking up multiple threes on a cold night, he only had two attempts from long range. I'm very excited to say this - Smart is playing much smarter.
- Demar DeRozan is a star. Not a superstar, certainly, and maybe not even a max guy in this age of analytics, but he put on a show tonight, and it was impressive. 34 points on 25 shots is not a bad line. I don't know if the fact that he was 0-1 from deep makes the line more or less impressive, to be honest.
- Jonas Jerebko needs more minutes. If he can avoid fouling, he should continue to see more and more time - his floor spacing and deep shooting are just too valuable.
- Holy Valanciunas. We flat-out did not have an answer for him down low in the second half. Sully seemed to do a pretty good job on him early, but we couldn't keep him in the game with his poor offensive performance tonight. Is Sully our only means of defending against really big, strong 7-footers?