For the first eight minutes or so the Toronto Raptors looked like offensive juggernauts. When you’re hitting from deep, everything looks perfect. Toronto came out and looked unstoppable nailing eight of their first nine 3-point attempts.
It was all a mirage.
When you live by the 3, you die by the 3. None of Toronto’s offensive woes were fixed. Instead, the Raptors squandered another double-digit lead thanks to a 38 to 14 second quarter and fell 126-114 to the Boston Celtics on Monday night.
“Just our inability to guard. I think that was the biggest thing,” Nurse said. “We didn’t score a lot which means we’re playing a lot in transition or off turnovers, put a little pressure on our D, but it was just, I think mostly, it was just an inability to make them take tough shots.”
When the 3s aren’t falling for the Raptors, their offence has little else to go to. It’s Fred VanVleet’s shooting and usually Kyle Lowry, and not much else for the Raptors right now. Pascal Siakam remains inconsistent. Norman Powell has yet to look good aside from his one start. OG Anunoby hasn’t really gotten it going. The centre rotation is inconsistent aside from some flashes from Chris Boucher. And after that, things get really ugly.
This was the issue for the Raptors last year. They were a middling team when it came to half-court scoring, buoyed by an elite defence that could create transition opportunities. But now those offensive issues are being exposed. Toronto’s transition offence has taken a step back and their half-court problems have been exacerbated.
With the offence struggling, the defence was asked to do too much for the Raptors and it hasn’t yet to return to it’s 2019-20 form.
“For whatever reason we’re not guarding the ball very well. Whether it’s just somebody trying to penetrate into the paint to create or if it’s a guy iso-ing out to play one-on-one, we’re just not making it hard enough,” Nurse said. “It’s not any one person in particular, it seems to be spreading and it’s one of our strengths. Well, it used to be one of our strengths was we really guarded penetration well and we’re not guarding it very well at all right now.”
It didn’t help that Jayson Tatum had another breakout performance against Toronto, scoring 40 points including 21 points in the second quarter. Even with 35 points from VanVleet and 22 from Siakam — who played pretty well in the second half — the Raptors got little going until garbage time. By then it was too little too late.
Pascal Siakam: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
The Good: Siakam showed some life in the third quarter, blocking a Semi Ojeleye layup and then running the floor for a vintage Siakam score.
The Bad: Siakam was 3-for-10 in the first half including some ill-advised post-up attempts against the Celtics’ bigs. He continued to look lost offensively, unable to attack downhill the way he used to.
The Ugly: After a strange illegal inbound pass from Toronto, Boston’s Jaylen Brown was fouled for an and-1. Making things worse, Siakam stepped into the lane on the free-throw a split second early, giving Tatum an extra free-throw attempt which he promptly nailed.
Alex Len Starts 2nd Half
After a really disappointing first half from Aron Baynes, Nurse turned to Alex Len to start the second half. It’s wasn’t that surprising considering Baynes missed multiple point-blank looks in the first half but considering Len barely played to start the season it marked a big transition for Nurse away from his starting centre.
“Alex seemed to be OK in there defensively,” Nurse said. “Thought when he was in there there was a few changed shots and things and when he wasn’t it was just straight to the rim whenever they wanted to.”
Malachi Flynn & Bench Log Significant Minutes
After Nurse was critical of his before the game, voicing his displeasure with Matt Thomas and Terence Davis due to their defensive struggles, he decided to shake things up a little bit against Boston, playing Malachi Flynn in the first half.
Unlike in the preseason when Flynn looked impressive on both ends, the Raptors’ first round pick looked shakey on both sides of the ball.
“If you want to be honest about it, he didn’t really do much out there, really, right?” Nurse said of Flynn. “And if you want to be honest about it, Norm hasn’t played very well this year. And TD hasn’t played very well. And Matt didn’t play well. Some of the other guys. We’ve got to play better, man. We’ve got to get these guys playing to their capabilities. I think they’re better players than that.”
Up Next: Phoenix Suns
The Raptors will head out west to start their first Western Conference road trip of the season starting with the Phoenix Suns at 9 p.m. on Wednesday. It’ll be the first of four West Coast games against Phoenix, Sacramento, Golden State, and Portland.