Raptors 73, Celtics 96 – Box

Nothing to see here, nothing to see here at all. Only thing we can do is hope that nights like these are limited in number this season, and hope is the right word because logic and probability both indicate that more are to follow, even as soon as this week.

The Raptors haven’t won anything in Boston since January of 2008, and heading into this one a win wasn’t on anyone’s mind, all that we hoped was that the team could give a good account of themselves and come out of the building with their heads held high. Did not happen, and this defeat serves as the exclamation mark of the Raptors’ prolonged futility against the Celtics. The larger concern here isn’t the humiliating defeat, it’s the hopelessness that seems embedded in the roster, to which the prescribed cure is deemed to be patience. And so it is with patience that we watch these games, in anticipation that the outcome of this gradual process will yield something worthy of pride.

A minute into this game it was crystal clear that the Celtics were not going to let this one drop, and saw the Raptors as the perfect antidote for their five game losing streak. Their hunger for a win was personified by Rajon Rondo who made no secret that he saw Jose Calderon as nothing more than a pylon, and the Raptors help defense as mere spectators. The Raptors’ strategy was to lay off Garnett, but that backfired as he hit all of his long twos. The Celtics’ march to the paint wasn’t just happening through Rondo, Pierce was slicing his way inside with ease as well, and the Raptors transition defense wasn’t up to par against the Celtics’ sheer speed after turnovers.

Amir Johnson picked up two early fouls (one of them total BS, the other one a wily trick by Garnett), and was sent to the bench. Jamaal Magloire was brought on and he airballed a 10-footer, Aaron Gray was brought on and he was understandably uncoordinated and couldn’t execute a single box-out. With no Bargnani around and the absence of anyone who the Celtics might even consider a threat, DeRozan tried to get the offense going by getting himself going, first by hitting a three, and then a couple strong moves against Ray Allen, who was quiet in the first half. Despite his moderate success in the first half, DeRozan’s game impact was zero – 4-16 and 2 rebounds. I don’t get the jumpers, especially the long twos, I hope he realizes that increasing your range from 10 feet (which he’s good at) to 20 feet (which he’s not good at), rarely happens in two discrete steps. What DeRozan needs to go back to is what he did a couple times against Ray Allen – catch it in a face-up situation, make your move quickly, create separation, and take a short jumper. Pulling up for a 20-footer, or even stepping into one is a low percentage shot for him, and is especially harmful when the team is struggling.

Overall, the Raptors settled for way too many perimeter looks in the first quarter (shot chart), and dug themselves a nice little 15 point hole, the stretch included 11 straight missed shots (mostly jumpers) and resulted in them shooting 30% in the quarter to the Celtics’ 60%. Of all people, Rasual Butler sparked the offense by hitting a couple shots that nobody expected him to make. The second unit, led by Gary Forbes, pulled the Raptors closer in the second, the highlight was Forbes taking Avery Bradley off the dribble for a left-handed And1 finish off the glass. To sum it up, the Raptors had a chance with Rondo on the bench, and zero while he was on the floor.

On the strength of their bench, the Raptors won the second quarter 24-15 and closed the gap at halftime to 44-38. Unfortunately, that scoreline gave me momentary hope for the second half. Said hope was gone not long after the interval, which started with the Celtics going on a 9-3 run to double the lead and deflate the visitors. Things we saw in action in the third quarter:

- DeRozan’s suspect ball handling
- James Johnson trying to do too much
- Gary Forbes once again be the Raptors’ best player in the quarter
- No answer to Pierce
- The start of garbage time

You can probably complete the picture. It was a blowout the rest of the way.

Couple of gems from Devlin, during the second quarter when the Raptors couldn’t score: “Somebody’s got to take the pressure off of Barbosa”. It’s a massive warning sign when Barbosa is considered the go-to guy on the team, and it speaks very poorly to DeRozan, who in his third year should be taking on the pressure, instead of deferring to a perennial bench man.

Here’s another one: “The Raptors had to beat the Celtics off the bounce and use some of that athleticism”. Beat the Celtics off the bounce? No active Raptor could beat any Celtic off the bounce, hell, forget the bounce, no Raptor could beat a Celtic if they had the ball tucked under their arm. Sometimes I don’t know what game he’s watching.

Final comment on Kleiza’s flagrant on Rondo which almost broke his wrist. It was a bit thuggish and I was concerned for Rondo, at the same time I was glad to see it because it’s a sign that some level of f**k is being given, even if it isn’t translating to wins. If you can’t beat them, at least make your presence felt without killing anyone.

As I already said, nothing to see here, so I ask you to spare me from describing this game in any more detail. Next up is Portland at home before we go on a season-defining road trip.

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