One — Perspective: Was it disappointing to lose out on a chance to reach .500? Yes. Do the Celtics have the Raptors number? For sure. But it’s silly to overreact to this result. This result was as much a reflection of circumstances as it was anything else. The Raptors were so clearly gassed as their legs completely gave out midway through the third quarter that even point-blank layups became impossible. Not only was this the second night of a back-to-back with the Raptors landing in Boston well after midnight, but it was also their fifth game in seven days, in five different cities. The Raptors will mercifully return to their temporarily permanent home in Tampa for two much needed off-days and will surely give a much better showing than they did tonight.
Two — Encouraging: The biggest positive in this game was the performance of Pascal Siakam, who lost all his confidence after a woeful showing in the seven-game series against Boston. The stakes are entirely different, but the same schemes and defenders that frustrated Siakam have not carried over to this season. Siakam was decisive in the post, scoring over Jaylen Brown and Semi Ojeleye, and he got to the free-throw line easily, and was actively calling for the ball to be swung to him on the perimeter. Siakam finished with 23 points on 8-of-14 shooting with two threes and five free throws on just one turnover, and he was by far the Raptors’ most efficient scoring option in the second half. The Celtics are still a bad matchup for Siakam because of the way they can swarm and pressure him, but it’s no longer so tilted in Boston’s favor.
Three — Thrive: Kyle Lowry has always had his way with the Celtics, and tonight was no different. Lowry consistently got into the teeth of the defense to create offense for himself and his teammates, especially in the absence of Marcus Smart. Lowry punished the Celtics again and again with his drives to the rim, getting by Jayson Tatum with ease on the perimeter before muscling his way past the much bigger Daniel Theis. He knows when to pick his spots, and will reserve himself when his team needs it the most. Lowry might not be the Raptors’ most productive player in the totality of the season, but in these difficult games, Lowry is still their best bet.
Four — Quiet: Norman Powell couldn’t sustain his hot streak even though the chances were there. Powell just had nothing by the end, and was getting blocked repeatedly at the rim because he couldn’t elevate, and his jumpers fell short because his legs were gone. Powell also battled foul trouble, picking up back-to-back fouls trying to fight around screens to defend Brown in the second quarter which cut his night short. One off night when everyone else was huffing and puffing shouldn’t change the equation for Powell once everyone returns. He should still be in strong consideration as a starter.
Five — Hope: The good news is that help is on the way. OG Anunoby is finally expected to return after missing the last nine contests due to a calf issue, and his heroics would have made a big impact in this matchup against the Celtics. Reserve forward Yuta Watanabe should also suit up on Sunday after he twisted his ankle during an off-day workout. Nurse will have to redesign his rotation once everyone is available, and again, the biggest question is the starting five.
Six — Comical: There were enough misplays in the second half to fill Shaqtin’ A Fool for the rest of the season, but the third quarter finish stands out in particular. The Raptors and Celtics combined to miss 18 straight shots, producing enough bricks to pave a road from Boston to Toronto. And it wasn’t a case of great defense thwarting good offense. Both teams were missing point-blank layups that professional basketball players could make with a blindfold on. It bordered on absurd, and mercifully, the streak was ended on a floater by Grant Williams and a deep three from Chris Boucher. Those three minutes alone set basketball back a decade.
Seven — Energetic: Boucher looked the part of a marathon runner on a night where everyone else was gasping for air. Boucher had all the energy in the world to contest shots at the basket, then fly out the other way, challenge for rebounds, while still having enough juice to launch threes with decent accuracy. Boucher was unfortunately limited by foul trouble, picking up two in the first quarter that forced the reinsertion of Aron Baynes. If Boucher could have been a tad more disciplined on the defensive end, he might have helped the Raptors steal this game.
Eight — Pained: Not to belabour the point, but Baynes continues to be extremely underwhelming. The missed layups are as glaring as they are deflating on a night where everything was needlessly difficult, but the defense is more concerning. The Raptors asked him to help pressure and contain the ball against Brown and Jayson Tatum, and time after time the Celtics’ young stars just drifted past Baynes to collapse the defense entirely before finding someone to kick it out to. Sure, it’s not easy to defend elite players, but being physically incapable of executing the scheme is a huge cause for concern.
Nine — Reinforcements: It bears repeating that the Raptors need to improve their center rotation if they have any faint hopes of making a serious playoff run. Boucher is a revelation, but his physique will be a concern in the playoffs when games become more physical. He can still be counted on, but the Raptors need some type of insurance policy. Baynes would theoretically match up against bigger centers, except the likes of Steven Adams, Jonas Valanciunas, and Brook Lopez have bullied him on the inside. Even a small upgrade could go a long way.
Ten — Reset: Of course, the bigger question facing the front office is assessing who the Raptors truly are. Is this the team that started 2-8, or is the 10-6 response more true to their quality. Lowry’s name is in the rumor mill and his Toronto home is on the market, which suggests the Raptors might be more pessimistic. That being said, the front office also doesn’t leak and has always been committed to winning.
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