Let me tell you what happened here last night. The Raptors picked up where they left off against Philly: not scoring the ball, except that this was much worse and they shot 18% in the first quarter and were held to under 20 points again for the fifth straight quarter. This was a quarter where Avery Bradley did a Gary Payton on DeMar DeRozan; with no Andrea Bargnani or Jose Calderon in the lineup, and DeRozan shying away from doing any real work, the Raptors managed to go scoreless for 9:03 of the first.
The score at the end of one was 20-13 Celtics and might make you think this was a defensive affair. False! Although Boston did show a panache in their defending – Bradley in particular – this portion of the evening can best be qualified as very Kevin O’Neilly.
The Raptors were so poor that Boston decided that they’d take it easy some and started playing their bench, especially since they were starting a B2B2B. It worked for a while as the Raptors remained at arms length, with much help from good folks such as James Johnson and Alan Andersen. The latter attempting things that can only work in the D-League, and the former dispensing a level of effort that, given his fringe NBA status, bordered on audacity.
Linas Kleiza’s two spot-up threes kept the Raptors in it, along with – as has been the case this year – a respectable level of defense that can be directly attributed to Dwane Casey. This reminded me to ask Colangelo next time I see him just why he kept that hack Triano in charge for three years, thereby pretty much wasting that time.
Halftime came with the Raptors down 36-30 which was a small miracle. The Celtics’ hadn’t been able to put the Raptors away, and when the home team were on the ropes, the Celtics missed some key back-breaker threes, a couple by Mikael Pietrus.
One expected the Celtics to come out and tidy things up at the start of the third, and the Raptors to recede into further dire. False! It was the Celtics who drifted further towards the perimeter and the Raptors who started to knock their looks down, all the while getting to the line. Here’s the 3Q shot chart:
DeRozan had 13 of his 22 in the third quarter, where he also went 6-6 from the line (13-13 FT overall) and finally made Bradley pay for playing him too tight. Amir Johnson also played some intelligent defense on Garnett by using his feet well, forcing KG to fade on his jumper. The Celtics struggled to run their offense around Garnett, which they were making a concerted effort towards doing. The unlikely events of Pierce misfiring and Alan Andersen hitting had the Raptors surprise Boston 27-11 in the third, and they took a 57-47 lead into the fourth against the NBA’s hottest team.
The fourth was all about scrubs getting up and residents of Tank City pulling their hair out. Justin Dentmon and Alan Andersen combined for 11 points in the first six minutes of the fourth quarter, extending the Raptors lead to 15. Four of these coming on a Andersen four-point play. It was probably at this point that the Celtics noticed the scoreline and realized that was started off as a night which promised fourth quarter rest, had just turned into a 15 point hole.
Boston extended their defense and the Raptors broke the initial traps well, but the offense wasn’t able to regroup once in the frontcourt and it resulted in low-quality movement and shots. Boston edged to within eight with 1:28 left; still a very safe lead you’re thinking. False! A turnover and a missed Kleiza three had the Celtics go on a 7-0 run to slice the lead to one with 38 seconds left.
At this juncture the game is setup for the Raptors missing their look, the Celtics rebounding, and that bastard Paul Pierce hitting the game winner as time expires. False!
Let’s pause and talk about offense. It hasn’t been great this season, 25th in the league in fact. What that stat doesn’t show is that the Raptors have been getting some very crisp movement all season, especially in key possessions. The talent to translate that execution into points isn’t here, but let that not gloss over the fact that there’s something of substance when Casey has to draw up a play.
We saw that substance last night when Amir Johnson and Andersen completely cleared out Rajon Rondo, allowing DeRozan to get to the wing and forcing Garnett to help. Credit to DeRozan for catching Garnett’s bad angle and taking it to the rim. Two FTs and two points. The Raptors scored their last ten points on FTs which healed some of the wounds inflicted by that loss in Chicago where we missed three down the stretch to lose it.
Here’s that play I’m talking about:
It’s funny how we were 1-11 against the Garnett-led Celtics while Bosh was here and we were trying to “contend”. Now that we’re officially shit, we’re 3-5 against them. Either they’re looking past us in the schedule, or they’re not as good as they used to be. Or is it that Bosh pissed his pants whenever he saw KG? True! In my mind, we just did this to the Celtics.
See you at the party.