Archive for the ‘Boston Celtics’ Category

Game No. 23: Celtics 100, Raptors 64

The Raptors continued their recent trend of both being unable to play a good first quarter and being unable to give the Celtics a good, competitive game.

How bad was it tonight in Boston? Well the Raptors nearly had as many turnovers (five) as field goals (six) in the first quarter, Aaron Gray was one of only two Raptors with more than three points midway through the second quarter and the first half came to an end with a Kevin Garnett three-pointer.

By that time, the second half wasn’t even worth watching.

Now here are some thoughts on the game:

1- I mentioned another poor first quarter above. The Raps have now gone 11 straight games without winning a first quarter, and in nine of those games, they’ve been down by at least eight points after the opening frame. With a team as low on talent as the Raptors, a lot of times their only hope is going to be if they can use their youth to jump on teams early and try to hang on. Digging themselves double-digit holes before they can even blink is like booking themselves a handicap wrestling match.

2- Another game, another starting lineup. Tonight it was Calderon, DeRozan, James Johnson, Davis and Gray. Dwane Casey hasn’t been shy in mixing up his starting unit according to different matchups, and I don’t blame him. With how inconsistent the young Raptors have been and with the injuries to key players they’ve dealt with, I don’t mind seeing different players getting a look in the starting five and off of the bench. If they were a contending team or a fully healthy team with playoff aspirations, I’d like to see some lineup and rotation consistency from game to game, but that isn’t the case. This season, as I’ve stated numerous times, is about finding out what you have with a lot of these guys.

3- One of the differences in tonight’s lineup was the absence of Linas Kleiza, who was held out of action with a sore right knee. According to the Raptors’ Media Relations twitter account, the Raptors are “monitoring minutes and giving rest on a back-to-back.” This seems fair and legitimate considering that Kleiza only recently returned from microfracture surgery on that same knee, but I can’t help but wonder if Kleiza was held out because of a combination of the knee and playing the Celtics for the first time since taking out their best player on a non-basketball play.

4- I have no problem admitting that the team I root for is incredibly low in the talent department and was flat out out-worked by a much better Celtics team on Wednesday night. Having said that, I don’t think it’s my hometown bias, but wow, was the officiating ever slanted in this ball game? On the surface, you could look at the fact that the Celtics only had 12 free throw attempts and call me crazy. But Boston’s lack of trips to the line had more to do with the Raptors’ careless defensive mentality than pro-Raptors officiating. What I’m talking about is how many times a Raptors player (usually DeMar DeRozan or Jerryd Bayless) was practically mugged on the way to the basket without a whistle. Though perhaps it wouldn’t have mattered anyway, as the Raps shot an embarrassing eight-of-18 from the charity stripe.

5- It’s incredibly hard to find even the faintest silver lining after a game like this, but I did want to mention Ed Davis. After finally putting up a double-double of 11 points and 11 rebounds Tuesday night against the Hawks, Davis followed up with another double-double of 10 points and 12 rebounds against the Celtics. I realize that Davis’ two best statistical performances of the season have come in blowouts and would obviously like to see him put up these kinds of numbers in tight games, but it’s still a good start. You’ll remember that last season, Davis really got on a roll in the latter half of the year and finished with six double-doubles in his last 10 games. I’m hoping that the last two games serve as a springboard to the same type of streak from here on out.

6- If there is an ugly trend that has sneaked into the last two games, it’s the return of the Raptors’ ugly defence of years past. Perhaps it’s just a two-game blip on the radar, perhaps it’s the result of the Hawks and Celtics being tough matchups for the young Raps, perhaps it was just due after looking like a good defensive team through the first third of the season, but the Raptors have been downright awful on the defensive end this week. The Hawks and Celtics combined to shoot 51.6 per cent (80-of-155) from the field, 45.2 per cent from three (19-of-42) and scored 100 points each after the Raptors allowed just two teams to score 100 points through four quarters in their first 21 games. No one could have expected the Raptors to look as good as they did defensively for the first month of the season and these last two games looked eerily similar to the 2010-2011 Raptors team that was historically bad on the defensive end, so this could be the beginning of the end for a defence that often looked too good to be true.

Needless to say, I’ll be very interested in watching how the team’s defence responds and performs over the next few games.

***

You know it was a tough night at the office when all 12 Raptors players, even Anthony Carter and Solomon Alabi who only played five minutes each, were a minus-six or worse in plus/minus.

Raptors Player of the Game: Aaron Gray – 26 Min, 8 Pts, 4-6 FG,0-3 FT, 9 Reb, 1 Stl, 1 Blk, 1 TO (Davis may have finished with the better numbers, but Gray and Bayless were the only two Raptors who brought a solid effort from the second they touched the floor. When Aaron Gray is your best player against teams like the Celtics, you’re just asking for a beat-down.)

Celtics Player of the Game: Paul Pierce – 26 Min, 17 Pts, 5-11 FG, 4-6 3Pt, 3-4 FT, 6 Reb, 8 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 Blk, 1 TO

Start time: 7:30 PM ET
Channel: Sportsnet One
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jose Calderon, Jerryd Bayless, DeMar DeRozan, James Johnson, Amir Johnson
Boston: Avery Bradley, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Jermaine O’Neal

Injury report

Toronto: Andrea Bargnani is expected to be out until at least early February.

Boston: Rajon Rondo is questionable for tonight, while Keyon Dooling is out until sometime in February.

Ugh. These guys again? And they come to Toronto to play the Raptors AGAIN on the 10th? I hate this schedule. If I could be a supervillain, I would call myself “The Defenestrator” and I would throw this schedule out a window.

Anyway, I’m guessing this game probably won’t be a bar fight. The Celtics are quietly rounding into form lately, winning five of their last six games and bringing their record to the .500 mark. Because these are the Celtics, they’re doing it with defense — their Defensive Rating is sixth in the league, they’re fifth in opponents’ field goal percentage and they’re second in opponents’ three-point percentage. If Rajon Rondo can’t play and Avery Bradley gets the start, I’ll be interested to see Bradley in extended playing time since I’ve heard he’s a crazy-good defender.

In the Celtics’ 96-73 win over the Raptors on Jan. 18, Rondo led both teams with 21 points. As in that game, Andrea Bargnani will be in a suit so we can expect the Raptors to have a hard time cracking the 80-points mark tonight. Good luck making it all the way through this game without flipping the channel to a less depressing one.

Random thoughts…

  • Ever wonder what it was like to wear those purple-pajama-lookin’, dinosaur-havin’ Raptors uniforms in the early days of the franchise? Not fun, if Charles Oakley and Anthony Mason were on the other team.
  • Are you moving soon and need someone to help you move the heavy stuff? Try the Mother and Son Moving Company!

Game No. 15: Celtics 96, Raptors 73

Yes, the Celtics are old and slow and are barely a shadow of their former selves (more on them later), but you had to know even in this state, they weren’t going to lose their sixth straight game (and fall to 4-9) with a home loss to the 4-10 Raptors. Not going to happen.

For all intents and purposes, this game was over when the Raptors went on an 0-for-10 stretch during the first quarter and went down 21-7 early. Though the game got somewhat close in the second quarter and beginning of the third quarter, Toronto never got within five again after digging that early hole.

Now here are my thoughts on the game:

1- As frustrated as I’ve been with DeMar DeRozan for the last couple of weeks, I can’t really knock his hustle tonight. DeMar was consistently attacking the basket and trying to draw contact when he wasn’t driving, but between just not getting calls and some careless turnovers, DeRozan couldn’t put it together. There were at least three or four occasions when I thought DeMar deserved a couple of free throws, but in the end, he finished with just three attempts from the line. There were also a couple of times DeMar looked like he was starting a strong move towards the basket before ultimately fumbling the ball and turning it over. It may not sound like much, but between the non-calls and the turnovers, DeRozan probably lost six-to-eight potential points.

2- I liked what I saw from Ed Davis tonight, though his missed “gimmies” from a few feet away continue to frustrate me. Davis seemed much more active than he has been in a while. He was rebounding, working to get good offensive positioning in the post and seemed to have some good chemistry with Amir Johnson, as the pair made a few surprising, beautiful passes to each other. In the end, Ed finished with nine points and nine rebounds in 35 minutes, but I’ll always think about what his numbers might look like this season if he could convert seemingly easy buckets. If he can figure it out offensively (he’s still way too young and inexperienced in the NBA to be declared offensively inept forever), he’s a walking double-double.

3- The other positive for the Raptors was the play of Gary Forbes off of the bench. What Forbes showed us in Boston is basically what I was hoping from him when the Raptors signed him. I don’t expect him to score an outstanding 18 points on just six shots in 19 minutes (as he did tonight) on a consistent basis, but I do think he can be a good scorer and the type of player who can alter momentum in a ball game. His play is obviously starting to win over Dwane Casey as well, as Forbes has logged 49 minutes over the last three games after playing just 45 minutes in the first 12 games combined.

4- That will about end the positives from this game. Now on to the much more visible negatives…Everyone wanted Rasual Butler yanked from the starting lineup, and with Linas Kleiza still rusty and Gary Forbes filling in as a back-up point guard, the next option at the three was James Johnson. Unfortunately, Johnson didn’t exactly take the starting job and run with it in his first start of the season. James started the game with seven minutes of goose-egg basketball, as in he put up zero points (on zero-for-three shooting) to go along with the zeros in every other category (expect personal fouls). He quickly found his place on the bench, and finished with four points, two rebounds, a steal and three turnovers in 25 minutes.

5- Now about those aging Celtics. I picked the Knicks to win the Atlantic Division this season, but I still expected the Celtics to be a top-four or top-five team in the East that could win a playoff series or two if they got the right bounces. After watching them on a few occasions through three weeks of the season, I’ve already soured on them. They’re simply too old and slow to compete with the NBA’s elite, but the scary thing for Celts fans is that they almost look too slow to even compete with mediocre teams. From what I’ve seen, I can’t see Boston finishing anywhere near the top of the Eastern Conference, unless they end up winning the Atlantic with a barely above .500 record. I still think they’ll make the playoffs (not if Rondo is out for an extended period of time after Linas Kleiza’s flagrant foul), but they’re looking at a battle for sixth to eighth in the East instead of fighting for first to fourth.

6- I don’t believe for one second that Dwane Casey is playing to lose or that Bryan Colangelo enjoys the early losing that goes with the process of rebuilding. I think Casey is honestly trying to get every ounce of effort and output he can from this severely over-matched bunch, and for the most part, I think he’s doing a pretty good job. But you can’t tell me that giving Rasual Butler and Aaron Gray a combined 34 minutes is in an attempt to beat the Boston Celtics. Are they necessarily “trying” to lose? No. Would they ever admit that they are creatively trying to tank? Hell no. But come on, trotting out Butler, Jamaal Magloire and Anthony Carter for anything more than a minute each in 2012 is a form of tanking, whether admitted or not.

And for all of those Raptors fans who have fully embraced “Tank-Nation,” you have to be thrilled tonight. With the Wizards stunning the Thunder, the Raps are now just one-and-a-half games ahead of the last place Wiz, with games against the Blazers, Clippers, Suns, Jazz and Nuggets coming up in the next nine days. In all likelihood, this will get ugly in a hurry, but could get oh, so sweet when the ping pong balls drop in May.

Raptors Player of the Game: Gary Forbes – 19 Min, 18 Pts, 5-6 FG, 1-1 3Pt, 7-8 FT, 1 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 Blk

Celtics Player of the Game: Rajon Rondo – 28 Min, 21 Pts, 7-8 FG, 7-11 FT, 3 Reb, 2 Ast, 1 TO

Start time: 7:30 PM ET
Channel: Sportsnet
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, Rasual Butler, Ed Davis, Amir Johnson
Boston: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Jermaine O’Neal

Injury report

Toronto: According to @Eric__Smith: “Casey hopes to have Gray back tonight. J.Johnson will play. No go for Bayless/Bargnani. MAY see a change to starting lineup.”

Boston: Keyon Dooling and Chris Wilcox are out.

Both teams are in the midst of five-game losing streaks, but that’s only a surprise for one of these teams. While it might be too soon to completely bury the Celtics’ “Big Three”, their championship window has been slammed shut and had bars installed in front of it. It’s not just one thing the Celtics are doing poorly — they’re 20th in the league in both Offensive and Defensive Efficiency.

You know what? My heart’s not really in this one. I’m crushed that Rob Lowe didn’t actually break the news of Peyton Manning retiring. That would have made my week. But here’s my consolation: the game preview over on CelticsBlog includes detailed breakdowns of the referees for this game.

For some of you, your initial response to this might be admiration at the dedication this blogger puts into analyzing every possible detail of this game. But if you know Celtics fans like I do, you know that the real reason for this analysis is that, more than any other fan base, Celtics fans are convinced that most officials are out to screw them over. By pointing out that Derrick Stafford “worked for the US Postal Service for 10 years, which may explain his quick trigger when it comes to technical fouls,” Celtics fans have ready ammunition for cries of persecution when Garnett gets T’d up for his fugazi tough guy act.

Anyway, this is an almost certain loss for the Raptors. It’s never fun to lose to the Celtics, but most of us will be OK with it tonight as long as Garnett keeps his “Mr. Intensity” act toned down. Hey, K.G.: It’s not working anymore. Give it a rest.

Random thoughts…

  • Biggest change to the Raptors from last season that I haven’t seen discussed elsewhere: their Pace Factor (estimated number of possessions per 48 minutes), which finished 10th in the league last season and is 28th so far this season.
  • Right on schedule, people are starting to blame injuries on the shortened, compressed schedule.
  • You’ve probably already watched this (multiple times) unless you weren’t on the Internet yesterday, but here’s the latest morsel of inspired brilliance from the fine bros of The Basketball Jones:


Pre-season Game No. 1 – Celtics 76, Raptors 75

Welcome to the first RaptorBlog post-game “recap” of the season.

This year, instead of writing a generic game recap that you can find thousands of other places, I’m going to make my post-game stuff a little more personal. After each Raptors game this season (unless I don’t see the game), I’ll post my thoughts on various points about the game itself, the team, the opposition, the coaching, the fans, and any other observations I make over the course of the contest. Sometimes the posts will be short and sweet, other times you may get a passionate rant that I hope you’ll appreciate.

I’ll include the link to the boxscore, as I did above, as well as embed the highlights, which you’ll find below. I’ll also select a Raptors Player of the Game, a Player of the Game from the opposition, and even a Goat of the Game if it’s called for. I’m working on a title for these posts, which I’ll have by opening night.

Without further ado, here we go.


Here are six thoughts from the first of two pre-season tilts against the Celtics:

1 – The starting lineup looked exactly the way I thought it would, with Jamaal Magoire starting at centre along side Andrea Bargnani, James Johnson, DeMar DeRozan and Jose Calderon. I know Dwane Casey has said not to put any stock in pre-season lineups and rotations, but I’d bet those are the five that start on Boxing Day against the Cavs. As I had mentioned in my last post, Magloire may start to set the tone early, but guys like Ed Davis, Amir Johnson and even Aaron Gray will likely end up with more minutes, as we saw on Sunday.

2 – The lockout rust was evident, as all in all, this was an ugly game of basketball, with very few sparks of offence either way. The two teams combined to shoot an abysmal 56-for-144 while committing 36 turnovers (The Raptors committed 21). To be blunt, what did you expect from a post-lockout pre-season game between an aging veteran team and a young team trying to learn a completely new system under a new head coach?

3 – Andrea Bargnani. If someone had told you before the game that Bargnani would shoot 4-of-14 and miss a potential game-winning put-back at the buzzer, you’d probably assume it was another forgettable performance from Il Mago. Quite the contrary. I can honestly say I’ve never seen Bargnani consistently chase down rebounds and stay focused on the defensive end like I saw him do in this game. It was the polar opposite of what his career has been to date, as his work on the boards and on defence kept him useful despite a tough day offensively. Heck, he even set a rock-hard screen on Keyon Dooling and was seen jawing with Kevin Garnett. It’s just one meaningless game right now, but if Bargnani can bring that effort on a nightly basis, eight rebounds a game is attainable.

4- I must say, for a dull pre-season game, it was a pretty energetic crowd. The official attendance of 16,721 was definitely inflated by season seat holders getting a window of time to claim extra complimentary tickets to the game, but it wasn’t so much the size of the crowd that impressed me as much as it was how loud and into the game they were. I’m not sure if it’s a sign that fans are wholeheartedly embracing the tough it out defensive mentality or a sign that people were just so starved for NBA basketball, they would have cheered for anyone out there bouncing a ball. Never the less, it was nice to see them rewarded with an exciting finish, even if they did have to witness a game in which Greg Stiemsma put in the winning bucket.

If you watched the game on TV, I’m sure you heard all about the new 3-D illusion at each end of the ACC court. Basically, if you’re in the arena, it simply looks like the word “Raptors” has been painted diagonally with a shadowed background. But if you’re watching on television, it looks like a 3-D stand (you can see it clearly in the highlights above). I guess it’s cool, but I don’t find it that interesting, other than the fact that the Raptors are apparently the first pro sports team in North America to incorporate this European soccer-like illusion. Last note on the in-game experience: the new court, which RaptorBlog reader Monique Lawrence first alerted us to in September, seems to be getting rave reviews from fans. I agree with them, it looks sharp.

5 – In a sign of what’s likely to come this season, the young Raptors weren’t getting many calls from the officials. There were quite a few occasions when I noticed a Raptor getting called for a cheap defensive foul, while not being rewarded for trying to be aggressive on the other end. I’m not foolish enough to believe that there’s a conspiracy theory waiting to be discovered, but I’m also not foolish enough to dismiss facts. Young, unproven players don’t get many calls in the NBA, so the Raptors better get used to it. On Sunday, the Celtics took 23 trips to the line with the Raptors getting just 13. I will say though, I liked that the players themselves refrained from showing their frustration with the refs and also liked the fact that on the television broadcast, it looked like Casey was constantly in the refs’ ears.

6 – A word on the Celtics. They’re still a very good basketball team, but other teams are getting better, and they’re only getting older. The talent is still there, the will is definitely still there (J.O. even looked to have a pep in his step in this one), but the legs simply are not. I’d be somewhat surprised if Garnett and O’Neal combined to play 66 games this season, let alone if one of them came close to playing that many games on their own. With one of their few young pieces, Jeff Green, out for the season, and very little depth behind an aging, fragile front court, I just can’t see this team being a serious contender come May and June. I’d even go as far as saying I’d be shocked if they reached the East final.

Raptors Player of the Game: Andrea Bargnani – 33 Min, 16 Pts, 4-14 FG, 2-3 3PT, 6-7 FT, 9 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 Blk

Celtics Player of the Game: Brandon Bass – 25 Min, 9 Pts, 4-9 FG, 1-2 FT, 5 Reb, 1 Ast, 3 Stl, 2 Blk

This week, as we head toward the final stretch of the condensed training camp and pre-season, we’ll make our predictions for the Raptors’ season, recap the second and final pre-season game and take one last look at the rotation heading into the regular season. And of course on Wednesday, we’ll unveil No. 8 in our Ultimate Raptors Rankings.

Hopefully you enjoyed my take on the game, and will come back for another 67 of them.

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