Celtics 88, Raptors 83Quick Reaction

Wow, how little do I want to write about this one.

Let’s start with the necessary (homer) caveat – these games happen. The Miami Heat lost by 17 points to the Washington Wizards on the same night and the San Antonio Spurs narrowly hung on against the Utah Jazz. It’s infuriating when they do, but good teams have bad nights.

The Raptors are coming off one of the best 18-game stretches in franchise history, even without controlling for the fact that the schedule has been difficult in that span (note: based solely on opponent winning percentage [read: not home-road, travel, point differential, etc], the Raptors have it easiest of any team the rest of the season). They outscored opponents by 127 points, going 13-5. That’s really good. Somehow, the 2007-08 Raptors had an 18-game stretch where they outscored opponents by 206 points (they went 41-41 but outscored opponents by nearly three points a game that year, a comically “unlucky” year based on expected win-loss record), but this has been a terrific stretch.

Whether or not the Celtics loss kills that momentum is unclear, but it can only really go two ways.

One path is that it can serve as a confidence destroyer. They did lose to a team on a nine-game losing streak with a thinned-out roster due to a trade, and they played some of the worst offensive basketball you can imagine. Looking in the mirror after this one and doubting the past month as a mirage wouldn’t be unreasonable.

Hopefully, it goes the other way, though. On that path, the loss serves as a reminder that, while the Raptors have been much, much better, they’re still the Raptors, a .500 team in the Eastern Conference, and there’s no such thing as a gimmie. Saying the team lacked an edge in the second and third quarter would be an understatement, and maybe this is a harsh reminder that even an excellent defensive fourth can’t make up for 36 minutes of hot garbage.

So it can serve as a reality check or a wake-up call, and we’ll find out by Friday when the Minnesota Timberwolves visit which it is. (Minnesota, by the way, is going to be very hungry, looking to right their own ship.)

As far as Wednesday goes, let’s start with a positive: with the game on the line, the team locked down in the fourth in a major way. While they struggled to score early, they started the frame on a 13-2 run that lasted 6:39. Nearly seven minutes with just two points is a great stretch of ball, and only late trips to the line in catch-up mode kept Boston from an embarrassing total for the quarter.

Boston shot 3-of-20 and the Raptors forced four turnovers. Have a look at the shots they gave up:
celtics chart1
That’s a lot of midrange work and shots near but outside the paint. Those five threes, shots you generally don’t want to allow (though five threes a quarter is roughly league average), they came with an average of seven seconds on the clock and only two would be considered good looks.

But here’s the problem – the Celtics grabbed seven of their 17 misses (one was a team rebound). While those boards “only” led to four second chance points, they’re also lost opportunities for the Raptors to get out in transition against an unset defense, so despite getting 17 stops the Raptors had just two fast break points. It puts undue stress on the defense, too, and is almost certainly a mental drain for the unit that’s out there to work hard, get the stop and then lose the possession.

That wasn’t just an issue that was exclusive to the fourth, either.

In the first three quarters, the Raptors generally defended well and held Boston to 40.6 percent from the floor. Yes, Boston is a pretty inept offensive team, but that’s a good mark against anyone, and it excludes the crazy fourth. But even in the first three quarters, the Celtics grabbed nearly 40 percent of their own misses, good for 21 second chance points. Not even the Indiana Pacers’ defense can get away with giving up that many extended possessions. The fact that Boston finished with just 88 points is a borderline miracle.

Jared Sullinger also had his way all day. I’ve always liked Sullinger as a scoring tweener-big, because he’s intelligent and uses his body well, limiting the downside to his lack of athleticism. He’s a nice piece…but 25 and 20? I know Amir Johnson has been banged up and Jonas Valanciunas has the flu and Tyler Hansbrough was unavailable, but the team’s inability to stop Sullinger in any way was ridiculous. Like I said, I like Sullinger, but his game is pretty straight-forward and while he hit a few degree-of-difficulty shots, this isn’t Kevin Love or Blake Griffin.

One more quick note on the defense – even though Steve Novak is generally a terrible defender, the team did make their big fourth quarter run with him on the floor. They tried hiding him on a few different guys, but it basically came down to good team defense outweighing a poor individual defender. That he managed just one rebound, however, highlights the fact that he’s actually more than 50 percent worse than Andrea Bargnani in terms of career rebound rate. Yikes.

The offensive end was where the real crime was committed, a 48-minute gouging of our eyeballs. In the first half alone I counted four missed bunnies, two airballed layups and seven missed free throws. I didn’t count in the second half, for my own sanity.

You want to know how to make up five points in this one? Hit your free throws. 12-of-25. 12-of-25. That’s 48 percent. Five more would be 68 percent, a mark still low enough to complain about.

At the same time, the only thing that kept this one close was the three ball, as the Raptors went 11-of-24. Thank Shamgod for John Salmons, right? Ugh.

Want to make your eyes bleed?

toronto chart1

Had enough? Have a look at just the shots when the game was within five points:

toronto chart2

What the hell was happening on the right side of the floor? Short of the Celtics having acquired Tyson Chandler, Segre Ibaka and Marc Gasol mid-game and I just didn’t notice, I can’t explain it.

For individual player breakdowns, there’s always the quick react, but this was a pretty team-wide drop of the ball. Hopefully, the lesson learned here is that they can’t take anyone lightly or ever let their foot off the gas. (And also that it’s a really terrible feeling to work your tail off for 24 seconds for nothing because you stopped playing a bit too early and gave up the board.)

The Raptors are still in a good place and they could still have momentum with them. How they respond to a loss like this – playing poorly, storming back but ultimately realizing you can’t win that way – will say a lot about the psyche of the team and how much they buy into the 13-5 stretch.

  • theswirsky

    Sorry, what was the lesson here we aren’t supposed to lose?
    Don’t miss free throws? Don’t give up rebounds? Don’t let an opposing player go off on you? Play good defense? Don’t miss shots?
    Shouldn’t the lesson teach us how to do those things or prevent those things from happening?

  • GetLicks

    Something is definitely up with Amir (my apologies if something has been reported, I haven’t heard anything). Past few games he’s been grimacing a lot more and just doesn’t look himself.

    Hope they bounce back against Minnesota, these things happen throughout the course of a season. Just a bad game.

    • tweed8

      Amir has bad ankles and he’s played that way for years. He ankles are pretty much always taped even he’s just walking around; He said in an interview last year that he goes through periods of feeling good and feeling really sore. The guy has pretty much always played through his injuries.

      Honestly, they need to get Hansbrough back on the court and try and split up some time between him, Amir and 2Pat. If, Amir is going through a rough time -due to injury- it might a good idea to start him just to get him running and sub him early. I really like 2Pat coming of the bench, provides a nice punch.

      • GetLicks

        Yeah I just read that he sprained his ankle in the 3rd (I missed the middle part of the game). But have noticed him labouring quite a bit more even the last few games. We need that psycho back, at least just to lighten up Amir’s load.

  • c_bcm

    This is a reality check, not a wake-up call. This team has been fun to watch. No doubt. But don’t forget that we have some players who are currently playing out of their minds right now…so regressions to the mean, this this one are bound to happen.

  • arsenalist

    Ugly loss, no doubt. They woke up in the fourth quarter but I was expecting that to happen at the start of the third, much like against Milwaukee. Should have won this but everyone seemed like they were in quicksand and slow to react. That play in the second quarter when Lowry made a bounce-pass for a cutting Amir who failed to reach the ball was a sign that he just wasn’t into this game. Shit happens, oh well. The only way to erase this memory is to make a better one against a better team in Minny on Friday. They win there, all is forgotten and this is chalked up to “one of those nights” in the long NBA season.

    • tweed8

      I was thinking the same thing. They allowed Boston to set the pace and waited for too long to try and change the tempo. It seemed the constant turnovers and lack of rebounds didn’t allow them to create a flow. Messy ball.

      • ckh26

        Going 13-6 since “The Trade” is not an abberation. In the last 10 we are 7 up and 3 down. While we won’t keep up to the almost .700 win percentage its not unreasonable to play at say a 550 clip to the end of the season. Leaves us 43 up and 39 down. Good enough to win the division and a 4th seed at worst. The Knicks and Nets would have to win at .666 pace and go 30 and 15 to catch us.

        So an ugly loss in a long season won’t break us. But damn I hate losing to Boston.

        • Steve Lam

          .666 for knicks and nets at this point isn’t unreasonable either. as good as the run has been for the raptors, i can’t see them finishing much past .500 by the end of the season.

          • ckh26

            Under the guise of unlikely rather than impossible for the Nets.
            However the Knicks would be pretty tough. They just have to much baggage over there. JR Smith is an “what the hell where you thinking ” waiting to happen, Carmello is going to say something about his impending ETO that will turn the New York media into a frenzied mob that will be a complete distraction to the team.
            I think the raps crack 500 for seasons end.. we won’t be over by 10 but 3 to 5 games is not unreasonable.
            Its a bet !

  • robertparrish00

    The lesson to me is we need a solid backup centre with size. When JV is hampered by the flu, and our other bigs can’t match the “Reggie Evans” type grit-we are going to lose. How many 50-50 rebounds went their way.
    Other lessons…Free throws are important, hero ball still sucks, playing small still sucks, and lowry should never play 40 plus minutes because if he goes down we are in big trouble.

    • Roarque

      Isn’t that Tyler Hansborough? Psycho T would have taken Sullinger out one way or another.

  • database_666

    whatever happened to the ‘specialist’ scribling ‘lol’ over the photo of the celtics roster in this forum yesterday? i wrote there, and will do again, do not underestimate, desperate or any other team. in my books, i chalk up this loss to casey and his inability to match up, distract, and isolate boston’s focal offensive points: bradley, sullinger, and green. a gritty and persistent, taller defender, like patterson, would have presented huge issue to green, which proved over and over emotionally unstable when intimidated. casey mailed it in when he brought the lineup of vasquez, novak, johnson, salmons and valanciunas out, because there was no flow, glue, rhythm or anything else to keep this contraption together. terrible game, felt terrible watching, hated the feeling that came with the last 2 minutes push to get even with the celtics, and in one moment thought to myself, ‘my team did not deserve to win this game.’

    • DDayLewis

      Read the quick reaction

    • llaen

      Personally, I found that really unprofessional (the pre-game writeup), win or lose, but maybe I’m just not used to sports writing.

  • Tanks-a-lot
  • Raptorozans

    Just wanted to give Arsenalist props for the crystal ball job he did for this game back in August: “Horrible road loss against the Celtics who are 20 games under .500. Best to forget this one.” Well done sir.
    Per my math your prediction had us at 17-20 to date, whereas we’re actually 19-18, so still ahead of schedule!…

    • arsenalist

      Haha. Thanks for reminding me of that. I’m telling you man, we are winning 43 games this year.

      Relevant link: http://www.raptorsrepublic.com/2013/08/07/all-82-games-predicted-and-recapped/

      • DanH

        Wow. Really close so far. Early on, you were dead on except you swapped the win and loss against the Bobcats and Bucks, and the win and loss against the Grizz and Blazers. Outside of that, you nailed every game up to the end of November.

        Then Rudy Gay kicked in, and we lost 3 in a row instead of winning all 3. Then Gay was traded. We split a couple games against the Bobcats and Bulls like you predicted (but switched), then you predicted we go 1-6 in the next 7 games – instead we went 6-1. Finally there’s the last 7 games, where you nailed every pick except you switched where we won against Indy (won at home and lost on road) and we beat the Nets.

        Crazy how close it is really.

        • arsenalist

          Yeah – Rudy Gay really threw things off. I think I’m on course for the win total, I really do.

  • Roarque

    Eric Koreen in the Post:

    ” With a three-point lead, Boston’s Jared Sullinger, who dominated the Raptors in the paint all evening long, missed two free throws with 38 seconds left. The Raptors called timeout, allowing them to inbound the ball past halfcourt. John Salmons passed the ball to DeRozan, who dribbled three times while backing down Boston’s Avery Bradley, taking a turn-around 15-foot jumper with 31 seconds left. It missed, and the Raptors ultimately lost by five points. No passes. No patience.”
    Now to be fair, DDR was angry that none of his team mates were playing well and so he took it upon himself to win the game ALONE. Raptor Ball became Rudy Ball at that point in the game and the Raptors’ fate was sealed. DDR needs to learn to win with Raptor Ball or to lose with Raptor Ball – to revert to Rudy Ball is not an option.

    • GetLicks

      Wasn’t too happy to see an ISO play out of a timeout, especially against Bradley. But I don’t think DD deserves the venom he got last night. Our bigs were giving us nothing, Lowry & Ross weren’t shooting it well. How do we know that wasn’t the play that was drawn up? If it was, poor job by the coaching staff. The play they ran after, where Lowry missed the open 3 was a MUCH better play.

      • GetLicks

        Also, Eric Koreen just might have the most annoying & whiney voice I’ve ever heard.

        • Roarque

          Important information to know – thanks

          • GetLicks

            Was just stating something I’ve noticed, no need for the sarcasm.

      • Roarque

        The play drawn up probably gave DDR outlets. I’d be surprised if Casey and Co..would design an iso. I don’t know and neither does anyone else but I’d guess that DDR ( who was totally pissed off at that point) chose the outlet that involved a drive into the paint and a foul shot or two. Koreen was trying to make a point and that was that the Raptors need to re0focus on the style of BBall that got them here.

  • Dr.Scooby


    Sure they’re not going to miss that many free throws often, but without a solid 4th big, rebounding will continue to be an issue from time to time.

  • CashGameND

    The lesson: Sullivan needs to be a raptor. Their pg too.

  • tonious35

    The Raps had “control” of this game in the 2nd, until Vasquez made that turnover to Wallace for that dunk, then shiat hit the fan.

  • tonious35

    This one was always in my memory about wins and percentages by Jack Armstrong: “in an 82 game season there are 10 games you will win by total gimme or by blowout, then 10 games you will get blown out or just play so bad and throw away to the opponent who is inferior. Then the next 62 games are determined by the true value of your team and the coaching staff.”

  • Pingback: When You Lose, Don’t Lose The Lesson | Blake Murphy Sports Writing()