Raptors lose to Celtics in “measurement game”

Jayson Tatum's third quarter, missed fourth quarter opportunities sealed Raptors loss.

Nick Nurse said before this game that he wanted to see how his team would fare against “the best team in the NBA right now.”

The Boston Celtics have been torching teams thanks to a historically efficient offence. The C’s were playing their third game in four nights, missing key pieces in Malcolm Brogdon and Al Horford. The Toronto responded by taking a 10 point lead, led by Pascal Siakam’s 17 first half points. Pascal finished with 29 (even while admitting his conditioning isn’t where he wants it yet) and the Raptors played a decent game overall. However Toronto fell behind in the third quarter after being outscored 35-18 and never recovered. Boston improved their league best record to 20-5, the first team to 20 wins this season. Meanwhile the Raptors fell back to .500 at 12-12.

Jayson Tatum vs his nemesis

Tatum has been asked in the past who defends him the best leaguewide. His answer was not a specific player, but the entire Raptors team as a whole. Tatum credited Nurse’s ever changing defensive schemes for making it difficult to score. His numbers from last season support that.

Jayson Tatum – Last Seasonvs Raptorsvs NBA
Points16.027.4
Field Goal %33.345.7
Free Throw Attempts3.06.3
Turnovers3.62.8

That wasn’t the case in this game, as Tatum propelled Boston from a sluggish first half to an 11 point lead at the end of the third quarter in a variety of ways.

Tatum took advantage of a poor perimeter closeout from Scottie Barnes (disagreeing with Matt Devlin here), who had a solid game but routinely allowed driving lanes from the three point line. The crossover and reverse vs O.G. Anunoby was beautiful and there was nothing more you could ask Christian Koloko to do on that three. Tatum nearly outscored the Raptors in the third by himself.

Missed Opportunities

The Raptors cut the lead to five with a minute left in the fourth but they would probably want these four possessions back.

The Anunoby dropped pass out of bounds was a killer, however the real concern is Fred VanVleet’s shooting struggles. He finished 3-14 from the field and it’s not a small sample size anymore.

Fred hasn’t shot above 40 percent in any of those games. Scaling back to the entire 2022 calendar year, VanVleet’s field goal percentage is 37.4. The popular theory is he was run into the ground last season. Nurse had the playoff rotation mentality for this game, as only eight guys played and two Raptors went over 40 minutes.

Toronto doesn’t have a plethora of shooters to mask prolonged slumps from VanVleet, Anunoby or Gary Trent Jr. Nobody is more aware of the numbers than Fred, it’s just a matter of when he can find a hot streak consistently again.

Final Thoughts

The general takeaway from Raptor players postgame was that that they played well, just needed to make a few more shots and tweaks.

“We know we can play with a team like Boston. I think the biggest thing for us is just overcoming the small things that we didn’t do well in the game. Boston is a team that the margin of error is so small that if you mess up, they might go on a 10-0 spurt.”

Thaddeus Young

Sidenote: Trent had another solid game off the bench with 20 points on 7-10 shooting (3-3 from three). Nurse pondered putting him back in the starting lineup pre-game but opted to go with Koloko.

Up Next: Hosting the Lakers on Wednesday. That would have been a much easier game three weeks ago than now, with L.A. winning eight of their last 10.

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