The Boston Celtics – missing four starters – came up just short against a Toronto Raptors team that had all of its regulars to the tune of a 115-112 final score. Marcus Smart led Boston’s efforts with 28 points, 10 rebounds and 4 assists. For the Raptors, Pascal Siakam tried his best to enact revenge for the Bubble series (without even facing off against his warden, Jaylen Brown), finishing with 40 points. 7 players scored in double figures for the Celtics.
The Celtics came out firing as if they were at full strength. They weren’t as dominant as they have been, but they were still really good. The “chip on shoulder” energy was tremendous right from the opening tip. Marcus Smart set the tone early with a pair of 3-point makes, and the bench came in and surprisingly kept up the pace despite lineups featuring personnel that doesn’t normally play.
through contact pic.twitter.com/tsm7LbvgOj— Boston Celtics (@celtics) March 29, 2022
For the Raptors, Pascal Siakam was the only one who really wanted to impose his size on the undermanned Celtics. He went directly at Daniel Theis relentlessly, making full use of his weight and length to generate high-quality looks at the rim. The Celtics defense considered it a win when he’d settle for a jumpshot when facing down Payton Pritchard (10 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists).
The Raptors played a bit of catchup in the second quarter. The reserves held their own more or less at the beginning of the game, but some sloppy turnovers from Smart really gave Toronto some easy momentum with wide-open fastbreak opportunities. Boston did its best to combine shot making with tough interior offense. They even manufactured quite a few rim attempts down the stretch of the first half.
In the third quarter, Boston started pretty sharp, but as the quarter continued, some of the sloppy play on both ends re-emerged. To be clear, this is completely fine considering who actually suited up tonight. But this team scrapped and fought for every point. This really was an admirable effort on all fronts.
March 29, 2022
A big key to Boston’s success was Derrick White. He championed bench lineups that held their own against Toronto’s huge front line. The defense was exceptional, and he kept the ball moving to find the hands of shooters like Payton Pritchard and Sam Hauser. Playing clean-up duty was Luke Kornet, who was a big factor in the Celtics killing the Raptors in second-chance points.
In the fourth, a lineup of Smart-Pritchard-Nesmith-Hauser-Theis really put on a great show, keeping all of Toronto’s pushes at bay with solid defense and strong, fundamental offense. Daniel Theis (13 points, 10 rebounds) went one stretch (including a play in which he put Siakam in a body bag), in which he scored seven straight points for the team. Udoka decided to ride with that lineup because of how solid they were playing despite Grant Williams and Derrick White sitting on the bench.
Fred VanVleet (14 points) hit back-to-back 3-pointers to cut the lead to one, and that led to a really tight back-and-forth. Some Smart grifting later, and a crucial possession led to the ball sitting in Aaron Nesmith’s hands with just under a minute left in the corner. His 3-point make gave Boston a four-point lead, putting the team in prime position. Unfortunately, Siakam really wanted Bubble revenge, forcing the game into overtime.
In overtime, Siakam continued imposing his will while Boston had a tough time scoring. The turnovers really killed the Celtics, with three key miscues coming from Grant Williams and Derrick White at the worst moments. Boston was unable to generate a quality look in the closing seconds, leading to the win-streak coming up short. Ultimately, it’s hard to get it done with 15 turnovers between Smart, Grant Williams, and Derrick White (15 points, 8 assists).
The Celtics now have fallen a game behind the Miami Heat for the first seed.
The Celtics will shoot to regain the first seed (and a season sweep) against the Miami Heat on Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. EST on ESPN.
For more postgame coverage of the gritty overtime loss north of the border, tune into the the Garden Report Postgame Show LIVE on https://www.clnsmedia.com/ right after the game. Join A Sherrod Blakely, Bobby Manning, Josue Pavon, Jimmy Toscano and host John Zannis for a full breakdown. Plus, the guys will discuss the emergence of several role players.