There’s not many times that a team that has already clinched a top two seed is in a playoff atmosphere, but that’s exactly the situation the Celtics found themselves in when they went into Toronto on Wednesday night.
The first quarter was reminiscent of the first round of a boxing match, with both teams feeling each other out and trading buckets. Brown, Morris, and Tatum made some great plays at the rim while Lowry and DeRozan kept pace with a couple of three’s on their own. Similar to last nights game, the C’s even mixed in some point Moose when they went to Kadeem Allen on the bench to pace Rozier. On the other end, the Raptors were just unable to connect on anything, only mustering up 14 points on 26.1 FG%. A big part of that was Baynes who held an aggressive Valanciunas to 2-7 shooting from the field.
The second quarter started much like the first, halfway through the Boston were holding a slim 26-23 run with both teams extremely locked in defensively. Monroe had a strong first outing getting a quick 9 points and 6 rebounds. He gave the young Raptors bigs a lot trouble and Boston did a better job getting him looks within the flow of the offense as opposed to force feeding.
The Raptors were the first to break out of the offensive slump with a 9-0 run in the middle of the second that gave them a 32-26 lead. The big theme of the quarter for the Celtics were the turnovers. The Raptors scored 17 points off of those 9 turnovers. Without another point guard that could run the offense, the Raptors threw a bunch of bodies of Tatum and did a great job attacking passing lanes, forcing the Celtics into 13 turnovers. The extra possessions allowed the Raptors to push their lead into double-digits.
First half numbers
In the beginning of the second half, the trading baskets (or lack thereof) continued with either team being able to really gain any momentum. The Raptors again finally hit first pushing the lead up to 14. The Celtics just couldn’t find the basket. The energy was there, but the team just looked out of sorts offensively. Rozier, Morris, Brown, Tatum, it just didn’t matter, no one could find a rhythm. It got so desperate that the Celtics unleashed Xavier Silas to try and find some type of offensive production. The C’s were able to keep the deficit to 14, but were only able to muster 53 points through three.
In the end, the absence of bodies and the sheer depth of the Raptors was just too much to overcome. This wasn’t a loss that shouldn’t keep the Celtics up at night, but it does virtually lock the Celtics into the 2nd seed. We will most likley be seeing a lot of “DNP-Rest” for the core guys down the stretch.