Raptors lose crucial play-in seeding game vs Celtics

Toronto appears destined for the nine seed, barring a miracle.

Here’s one example of how the entire game went.

The Raptors generated decent looks but couldn’t get much to fall, shooting 6-33 from three on a night where the win was on a silver platter for them.

Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart and Al Horford all missed this game. The Celtics didn’t play up to their standards either, as both teams shot in the low 40’s from the field. Boston also connected on less than 30 percent of their threes and missed eight of their 18 free throws.

Still, the Raptors shot themselves in the foot every time they had a chance to take control of the game. They only had 12 turnovers but they were untimely ones. Pascal Siakam did his best to keep Toronto in the game during the third quarter, finishing with 28 points and 11 boards. Scottie Barnes was solid on both ends, minus a couple of those turnovers I’m referring to. Precious Achiuwa was decisive on offence and did a great job crashing the glass. He finished with 16 points and nine boards, finishing the game instead of Jakob Poeltl.

Despite those positives, this loss all but seals the nine seed for Toronto. Atlanta predictably took care of what’s left of Washington to take a one game lead over the Raptors with the tiebreaker also in hand. Their magic number to keep eighth away from the Raps is down to one. The Hawks wrap up their season against Philly and Boston, who are both locked into the three and two seeds respectively.

Malcolm Brogdon: Raptor Killer

Brogdon stopped seemingly every Raptor charge in the second half. Jaylen Brown needed 29 shots to get his 25 points, so Brogdon took it upon himself to provide all the big plays for Boston off the bench. He scored the Celtics last seven points of the third to give Boston a nine point lead. Then after the Raptors tied it at 82, Brogdon’s back breaking three and assist to Mike Muscala once again gave the C’s breathing room.

Brogdon finished with a game high 29 points (10-19 FG, 4-6 3pt).

Meanwhile Fred VanVleet was simply off, going 2-14 from the field and 1-12 behind the arc. He called himself out after the game.

A Looming Challenge

The Raptors lost a very winnable game on the road (story of 2023) despite only allowing 97 points because they couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn. Toronto is 14-26 away from Scotiabank Arena and owns the third worst three point shooting percentage in the league (33.8). Only Charlotte and Houston are below them, and they’re playing for Victor Wembanyama.

Now that it’s all but set in stone that Toronto will have to win two play-in games to make the playoffs, inquiring minds wonder if this team is capable of making shots when needed for a potential win or go home game in Miami or Atlanta (whoever loses that 7-8 matchup). Imagine a 2-3 Spoelstra zone haunting a befuddled Raptors lineup, as it’s done plenty of times in the past. Can they overcome that? The road woes may be what ultimately sinks this team, which is why capturing the eight seed was paramount. Nick Nurse and VanVleet were rather calm postgame despite the magnitude of this loss. Of course, the Raptors have to first beat Chicago in a 9-10 matchup before that situation presents itself. However Toronto has been pretty reliable at home.

Up Next: Boston again on Friday. The Celtics have nothing to play for now.

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