In a battle of two banged up teams, the vastly superior side came out on top. But give the short-handed Raptors credit. They gave it a good fight and had the sell-out crowd buzzing.
The 14-point margin is no representation of the game witnessed by nearly 20 000 at the Air Canada Centre. The Raptors played the Celtics tough from the opening whistle, and for most of the game, matched them blow for blow.
While Toronto never actually won a quarter, they did dabble with the lead a few times and trailed by just one at the half.
Up until late in the third quarter, neither team had opened up more than a six-point lead.
The pace of the game was frenetic in the first half, with both teams playing a little on the sloppy side. This style made for some exciting basketball, and clearly seemed to favour the younger, fresher legs of the Raptors. Hence, why they were legitimately in this game.
The other reason the Raps were hanging around was DeMar DeRozan. Coming off of a career-high 37 points in Houston, many wondered how the sophomore would respond. Any critics were silenced early, as DeMar attacked the basket fearlessly, knocked down some jumpers and got to the line a respectable eight times.
DeRozan has been, and likely still will be, inconsistent for some time (He went 11-0f-25 tonight). But something about his demeanor has been different in the last two games. It really does look like something “clicked” for him.
The Raptors also got the usual inspired performances out of their young bigs rotation of Joey Dorsey, Amir Johnson and Ed Davis. The trio combined for 29 points and 32 rebounds, while staying mentally checked in on the defensive end. Joey Dorsey, especially, impressed with 13 and 13. It will be interesting to see how Jay Triano handles his minutes once Andrea Bargnani is ready to return.
The fun-loving good times were bound to end at some point against the Celtics, and sure enough, they did. Paul Pierce got hot, Ray Allen was Ray Allen, and slowly but surely, a three or four point lead became nine, then 12 and so on.
Realistically, the Raptors were not supposed to hang with the Celtics, let alone beat them, even without Garnett. But if you watched this game, then you know the Raps had their chances to take control.
Every time Toronto made a run, whether it was to take the lead early on or to cut into the deficit later in the game, it always ended in the same ways. Either a great look was wasted, free throws were missed, or the ball just didn’t bounce the Raptors’ way.
Linas Kleiza, Jose Calderon and Leandro Barbosa missed a ton of open shots that could have changed the complexion of the game (The trio was a combined 9-of-38 from the field) and the Raptors, as a team, were an atrocious 10-22 from the charity stripe. When you’re shooting that poorly, you’re not going to win close games against teams like the Celtics.
And about those bad bounces, how many more times do we have to see this? The Raptors will actually play a solid defensive possession, maybe knock the ball loose, bodies go flying, and yet somehow, the ball finds its way to the other team’s best shooter for an open three. It seems like this unfortunate sequence of events has become commonplace in Raptors games, and over the course of a tight ball game, those plays add up and usually bite you in the you know what.
Next up for the Raptors are the Bulls, in Chicago. You’ll remember that the last time the two teams met, the Bulls absolutely punished a beat-up Raptors squad.
Raptors Player of the Game: DeMar DeRozan -41 Min, 27 Pts, 11-25 FG, 0-1 3Pt, 5-8 FT, 6 Reb, 2 Ast, 3 Stl, 1 Blk
Celtics Player of the Game: Paul Pierce -36 Min, 30 Pts, 10-15 FG, 3-3 3Pt, 7-8 FT, 7 Reb, 4 Ast (Pierce also threw down a ridiculous dunk that took the wind out of Toronto’s sails, then left the game shortly after because he sprained his ankle)
Goat of the Game: Leandro Barbosa – 29 Min, 8 Pts, 3-12 FG, 0-4 3Pt, 2-3 FT, 1 Reb, 1 Ast, 3 Stl, 5 TO