Jabs vs Uppercuts (Keith P. Smith): We've become accustomed to seeing the Celtics deliver the knockout blows late in games. They seem to come at teams in waves, staggering them with blow after blow, before finally finishing them off. Usually Isaiah Thomas delivers the knockout punch for Boston. Tonight IT was just 2-8 in the fourth quarter and and -13 for the final frame. Instead of the littlest guy in the fight delivering blows, the Celtics were finished off by the unconventional tactics of the Raptors.
The NBA has systematically progressed towards anything but a shot in the paint or a three-point attempt being a bad shot. And offensive rebounding has become taboo as coaches prefer their guys to get back and set the defense. DeMar DeRozan and Jonas Valanciunas generally buck those trends and certainly did tonight. DeRozan scored 41 points, some of them at the rim, but many on assorted mid-range shots that the Celtics had no answer for. And Valanciunas was ready for the Golden Gloves, as he rained down blows on the Celtics with 11 offensive rebounds as part of a 23 rebound night.
The Raptors little guys also got it done. Kyle Lowry delivered time and again in the second half, including the huge 4-point play that swung the Raptors the lead for the first time since the first quarter. And Cory Joseph took on the task of holding down Thomas late in the game. Joseph stayed attached to Thomas' body and was in his jersey down the stretch, pinning him against the ropes where Thomas couldn't throw a punch.
The Celtics landed a lot of punches early, but they felt like jabs. The Raptors may not have landed as many, but they threw some haymakers and uppercuts and that was enough to finish off the Celtics. Sure, Boston won a few rounds, but when it mattered most the Raptors were like Ivan Drago and the Celtics played Apollo Creed. Maybe next time the Celtics can be Rocky, but they've got some mountains to climb first.
Can we talk about Kelly Olynyk? (Lachlan Marr): So I’ve always felt like Kelly gets a fairly long leash even though I haven’t always felt like he deserves it.
Kelly’s numbers in this game against Toronto actually weren’t too bad (13 points, 4 rebounds and 1 assist), however throughout most of his minutes on the floor he looked pretty lackluster. There were more than a few defensive lapses on KO’s part and at one point during the fourth he was literally lying down under the rim, from what I could tell no one had pushed him, he just seemed to have fallen over and decided not to get up for what seemed like an unreasonable amount of time. I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that the Celtics were eaten alive inside by Raptors’ big man Valenciunus during the fourth quarter when Kelly received the bulk of his minutes.
I was actually a pretty avid defender of KO last season as there were times when the Canadian native seemed to be developing pretty well. Yet this season I have seen little I have liked from Kelly. Ultimately, I guess my problem is that on a team where players are supposed to ‘earn their minutes’ I don’t quite understand why players who have shown plenty of potential and dedication like Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier receive limited minutes while Kelly continues to be a part of the regular rotation even when he often puts in the types of performance that would earn others DNPs.