Five thoughts recap: Boston Celtics 132, Toronto Raptors 125

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That wasn’t so bad, was it? The Toronto Raptors, still missing several key players and their coach, showed a ton of heart in coming out strong against the Boston Celtics — much more than they showed against the Detroit Pistons — but tired legs caught up with them and they couldn’t get over the hump in the second half, falling 132-125.

Give the Celtics credit, too, as they stepped it up on both ends in the second half, playing much tighter D and putting extra pressure on the Raptors by consistently attacking the rim.

Ultimately the outcome is no surprise, but at least it was a little more entertaining than Wednesday’s mess!

1. Kyle Lowry Changed his Shoes

Last night Kyle Lowry started out the game wearing yellow shoes. He started 1-for-4 from the field, including a couple real clangers, and promptly changed to some new kicks.

It’s gotta be the shoes, right??

Maybe not. Lowry immediately turned the ball over, and only hit one of his next five shots, and finished the game 5-for-17, so it didn’t help the shooting. But maybe it helped the passing? Lowry finished the night with a career-high (and Raptor-record tying) 19 dimes. (If he hadn’t forced a bad three with 30 seconds to go, he might have an opportunity for 20! Alas.) Speaking of assists, Lowry’s passing appears to have been contagious…

2. Passing Fancy

The Raptors had 21 assists on 25 buckets in the first half last night, including some real beauties:

And my personal favourite:

Five thoughts recap: Boston Celtics 132, Toronto Raptors 125, Lowry to Bembry

NBA.com

The team ended up assisting on 36 of their 45 made field goals, a marked improvement from Wednesday (17 assists on 34 field goals). That’s indicative of the Raptors’ play overall last night — a much more cohesive effort from a group that looked ragged and undisciplined on Wednesday.

As always, there are no moral victories, but it’s nice to see the team put in a better effort and play like a team (against a better opponent, too).

3. Big Time Boucher

Chris Boucher, one of Toronto’s more potent offensive weapons with this depleted roster, had an oddly limited role on Wednesday night (only 12 minutes through three quarters, before the game was out of reach) so it was great to see him get more run last night (34 minutes, 15 shots). He ended up with a career-high 30, many of them coming at key moments when the Raptors absolutely needed a bucket to stay in the game.

Unfortunately, Chris’ weaknesses were also on display, as he got outmuscled for a few key offensive rebounds by Robert Williams. Thing is, the guy who’s job it is to supply the muscle — Aron Baynes — was getting out rebounded by Payton Pritchard, so you know…

4. Stanley Back!!

It appears my Stanley Johnson slander from yesterday was premature! Our guy Stanley got the start last night, had another solid defensive game and — after a slow shooting start — hit four threes in the fourth quarter to help the Raptors hang around.

It appeared to be motivated by from actual slander too — the Celtics apparently were calling to “let him shoot,” disrespecting Stanley’s range, and he made them pay; he could be seen mouthing something akin to “that’s what you get when you leave me open” after the second make.

If the Raptors (with a full roster) start small for the rest of the season, there probably aren’t too many minutes available for Johnson. But if he can play solid D, move the ball decisively and knock down open jumpers, Nick Nurse should be able to find 8-10 consistent minutes for him.

5. Superstar Calls

If you want to complain about the awful offensive foul call on Norman Powell with two minutes to go, I won’t blame you. But to me, this was the more egregious officiating choice:

Five thoughts recap: Boston Celtics 132, Toronto Raptors 125, Stanley Johnson no call

NBA.com

Should Jaylen Brown have been called for a foul on Stanley Johnson’s three point attempt? No. But as Jack Armstrong alluded to on the broadcast, if that were Brown or Jayson Tatum, or any other “superstar” player attempting that shot, and Johnson defending, that’s absolutely getting a call.

I hate, absolutely hate, when an offensive player initiates contact in an unnatural way like that. If anything it should be an offensive foul — it’s the offensive player initiating the contact.

But what I hate more is the fact that superstars are officiated differently.

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Well, that’s a wrap on the first half of this completely forgettable season. It’s a strange thing, to see the Raptors two games below .500 at the All-Star break — we haven’t seen something like this in several years. It’s not a good feeling! But there’s nothing normal about the NBA right now. Still, this Raptors team when fully healthy is better than its record, so maybe — maybe! — the second half of the season will give us something more to cheer about.