The Boston Celtics blew a great opportunity to take over the two seed in the East
The start for the Boston Celtics wasn’t very pretty, as they shot 8-22 from the field (36%) in the first quarter, only putting up 18 points. The good news was that the Toronto Raptors only shot 38% from the field and scored 23 points. Despite the slow start from the Celtics, they were still very much in the game.
The Celtics picked it up in the second quarter on both ends of the court. Marcus Smart and Jae Crowder were terrific on the defensive end the entire night. They were outstanding when it came to help defense, they disrupted passing lanes, and steals often led to easy fast break points. Smart finished with four steals in the game.
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Smart was also great in running the offense and the pick and roll game. In the second quarter, the Raptors had both Jakob Poeltl and Lucas Nogueira on the court, and the Celtics were able to stretch them out with a Jonas Jerebko three. Smart did a tremendous job at exploiting these mismatches.
Gerald Green practically played the entire second quarter and added quite a spark off the bench. He replaced Jaylen Brown, who fouled Kyle Lowry on a 3-pointer right after he had a nice post-up on Lowry on the other end. Brown still continues to have problems with making these mistakes. Green went 4-7 from the field in the second quarter, scoring nine points and recording two boards. The Celtics led the Raptors by nine at halftime.
Again in the third quarter, the Celtics were able to stretch out the bigs for the Raptors. Early in the quarter, Smart was able to find Kelly Olynyk in the corner when the Raptors had Nogueira and Jonas Valanciunas on the court at the same time. Brian Scalabrine mentioned that the “twin tower” lineup was hurting the Raptors. This was absolutely the case the entire night. Al Horford was able to knock down a few threes of his own, Isaiah Thomas hit a crazy three when he was just simply trying to draw a foul, and next thing you know, the Celtics were up by 16. Smart and Crowder continued their terrific defense as well. However, DeMar DeRozan started to heat up and (along with Lowry) scoring the next 13 straight points for the Raptors. Then a DeMarre Carroll 3-pointer turned the Celtics’ lead into just five points. The Raptors trailed by as little as two in the quarter, and trailed by four going into the fourth. DeRozan went for 19 in the third quarter.
Crowder started the fourth quarter off with a steal and a lay up, and then Thomas (king of the fourth quarter) hit a three on the Celtics’ next possession. Unfortunately, DeRozan became practically unguardable in the fourth quarter, and ended the game with 41 points and also 13 rebounds. The other problem was that Valanciunas was able to create extra possessions all night, with 11 of his career high 23 rebounds coming on the offensive glass. The Raptors completely took over the fourth quarter, ending the game on a 23-6 run, outscoring the Celtics by 12 in the quarter. One of the keys for the Celtics was to limit the all-star backcourt of DeRozan and Lowry who had 58 points combined in the first meeting. They had 65 tonight. Thomas did have 27 of his own, but it wasn’t enough to compete with Lowry and DeRozan. Although he made some great defensive plays, Crowder only had nine points. The Celtics needed more than a 4-10 shooting night from him.
The Celtics clearly missed Avery Bradley. He wouldn’t have been able to stop DeRozan, but he would have been able to limit his game. DeRozan was able to abuse Thomas tonight when he had that mismatch, leading to an easy post up and score. They also missed Bradley on offense. They missed his back cuts, his shooting, and scoring. Although this was just another game on the schedule, it ultimately was a statement game for who the second best team in the East truly is. The Celtics had a 16 point lead in the third quarter. Bradley, or no Bradley, you have to pull out that win. The Celtics have shown that they continue to struggle to pull out victories against the Raptors, which is not good news. They have to turn it around quickly Wednesday night against the Wizards back home at the TD Garden.