A Celtics team that’s been winning games on smoke, mirrors, duct tape, and coaching wizardry finally ran out of answers Wednesday in Toronto. The Red-Claws rich Celtics fell to the 12-man-deep Raptors, 96-78.
Boston actually managed to make the Toronto crowd nervous for about 14 minutes. Five different Celtics — Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier, Al Horford, Marcus Morris, and bright spot of the game Greg Monroe — scored in the paint in the first quarter. The Celtics gritted their way to a 20-14 lead after one stanza.
Then Toronto picked up its defense. A worn-out and G-League-heavy Celtics team committed nine second-quarter turnovers. The still-underrated Serge Ibaka and Fred VanVleet, and the Raptors strong second unit, led a 24-5 Raptors run for a 10-point lead at half.
☘️☘️☘️#Celtics played 2nd consecutive game w/ no new injuries Toronto –#GregMonroe (that's Greg "the pearl" Monroe after watching him lead a fast break) looks spry, rested, & ready –#XavierSilas made the box score.
okay, we're out of bright spots, but there's a few
— Celtics247 (@celts247) April 5, 2018
Tired Celtics legs helped the Raptor defense out the rest of the way. Boston hit one of its first 13 3-point attempts to start the game.
(Both teas played on Tuesday night — the Celtics coming off a tough loss to Milwaukee. But in recent weeks, the nearly-injury-free Raptors were able to spread major minutes to one of the best benches in the game. The difference showed.)
One Redditor put it well in the Celtics postgame thread:
“We ended the game with Allen, Bird, Silas, Nader and Yabu” on the floor, as Alex Souza wrote. “There’s nothing to be added. On to the next one.”
Bright spots Dept.
After watching a cascade of second-quarter mid-range jump shots, Brad Stevens implored the Celtics, “drive it, kick it, move the ball, move without the ball.” The Celtics kept at it.
Greg Monore (17 points, 8 rebounds in 23 minutes) and a clearly hobbled Rozier (1 of 9 shooting, 9 rebounds on a bad ankle) both battled. Boston kept within 10-12 points much of the third and some of the fourth quarter. In short, the team didn’t quit.
One thing that probably suffered little against Toronto: Celtic clutch shooting. Boston’s been excellent in close games, led by Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Not that the team shut well in clutch-time against the Raptors. There simply was, statistically, not much clutch time, if any.
Playoff positioning and tickets
The game all but ended Boston’s hopes of capturing the top seed in the Eastern Conference. The Celtics trail the Raptors by three games with four to play.
On the other hand, with the second spot clinched, Brad Stevens now has four games to tinker. Boston can rest a weary roster, do a little experimenting on the margins, and try to get things tuned up for the playoffs (April 14).