Listed here are 10 takeaways from the Toronto Raptors’ 116-110 loss to the Boston Celtics on Monday:
1. The Raptors competed and performed properly for prolonged stretches, however had been merely outclassed within the third quarter. Boston dominated out of the break, with Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and even Marcus Sensible making momentum-shifting pictures to place the Celtics forward. A determined push on the finish from the Raptors made it shut, but it surely was clear who the higher crew was, and the hole is obvious.
Nonetheless, there is no such thing as a urge for food for any ethical victories when the underside line is that the Raptors ought to have come away with the precise end result. It was a Celtics crew with out their beginning frontcourt and their Sixth Man, enjoying on the highway within the second evening of a back-to-back, and the Raptors had been nonetheless a degree beneath. That’s not simply irritating to take the loss, however somewhat humbling as properly.
2. Boston’s third-quarter push is the mark of an excellent crew. Toronto outplayed them within the first half, however by no means actually generated significant separation because the Celtics made some key hustle performs to win unfastened balls and hit well timed threes. Their push got here within the third with Tatum popping free as a screener, which made it powerful for the Raptors to double him, whereas Brown and Sensible stepped up with daggers.
The Raptors didn’t deal with the strain properly after shedding the lead, and allowed their poor execution on the offensive finish to bleed over to their defence, which is a vital lesson to study. The Raptors discovered their rhythm once more within the fourth however that stretch decided your entire sport, as there was a visceral feeling that the Celtics had been merely superior. Boston’s bench celebrated and rallied with every basket even after they had been trailing, whereas the occasional Raptors baskets solely felt like momentary aid.
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3. Fred VanVleet is enjoying properly beneath his capabilities and the Raptors will stay caught in impartial till he finds himself once more. VanVleet made the suitable reads early on, taking the open pictures out there to him because the Celtics dropped again on defence to guard the paint, however his pull-up jumpers and floaters merely wouldn’t join. The Raptors additionally tried the strategy of getting him into his pet play, the place VanVleet would reduce to the nook round a display after inbounding the ball for a wide-open look within the nook, and even that wouldn’t drop for him.
VanVleet was closely pass-first within the second half however there have been nonetheless occasions when he needed to shoot it, resembling a drive and kick look within the nook that he missed, or a momentum-shifting three that he tried which additionally got here quick. If he has nothing else, the one facet VanVleet gives is his taking pictures, and he was outdone by Marcus Sensible of all individuals.
4. Regardless of his apparent struggles, Raptors coach Nick Nurse nonetheless wasn’t keen to show to a different possibility and rode with VanVleet for 38 minutes. On one hand, it’s comprehensible given all that VanVleet has achieved through the years to earn Nurse’s respect, and it’s not as if any of the three reserve level guards have any pedigree in anyway, but it surely’s nonetheless an apparent sample that’s gnawing at followers that VanVleet performs it doesn’t matter what.
There’s a clear want for a 3rd guard to fill out the rotation and to present a special look to the group, and that’s on the entrance workplace to deal with. Paradoxically, one such candidate was Malcolm Brogdon, who stated earlier than the season that he acquired curiosity from each groups, however in the end selected to request a transfer to Boston since they had been nearer to competition. It’s one other reminder of the hole between the 2 sides.
5. One answer may very well be to swap out a few of VanVleet’s minutes for Gary Trent Jr., who completed the evening with 20 factors on 10 pictures. Trent Jr. doesn’t supply the identical playmaking or the well timed swipes on defence, however he can replicate a few of scoring on the high of the ground. Ideally, the Raptors get that sort of scoring from each guards, however regardless if one is struggling, whereas the opposite is scorching, the minutes and utilization don’t correspond. Once more, that is the place a 3rd guard is required.
The Raptors have shifted the majority of playmaking duties to their wing gamers, however somebody nonetheless has to in the end knock down pictures after they draw doubles. Trent Jr. has proven a powerful chemistry within the two-man sport with Pascal Siakam on the high of the ground. However then once more, with Trent Jr.’s latest demotion to the bench, it’s truthful to query if there’s even a long-term match for him right here, not to mention taking minutes away from a core piece.
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6. Boston was with out their total beginning frontcourt and but their centres nonetheless vastly outplayed what the Raptors needed to supply. Christian Kokolo began the sport properly and used his size to contest pictures and rebounds, however was clearly overwhelmed within the third quarter as Boston made their push. Thad Younger and Chris Boucher had been pesky on the glass however couldn’t convert straightforward possibilities across the hoop. In the meantime, Boston countered with a really artful shift from Blake Griffin who obtained your entire bench on their toes with a throwback dunk, and Luke Kornet, who was repeatedly left open for dunks regardless of him being the most important man within the constructing. It’s not at the same time as if the Celtics are all that stocked up high, but their reserves simply outclassed the Raptors at a place that has remained vacant since Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka moved on three seasons in the past.
7. Siakam was nonetheless in a position to thrive towards some very powerful defenders, and in the end matched Tatum for offensive manufacturing which is hardly a straightforward feat when Tatum is a number one MVP candidate. Siakam was persistent within the paint, benefiting from Boston’s lack of shot-blocking for 13 journeys to the road, whereas additionally amassing seven assists. There have been stretches within the second half the place the Raptors had been asking Siakam to create the whole lot which allowed Boston to converge on him and strain him into misses, however on the entire Siakam was glorious and completed near a triple-double. Siakam has proven all yr that he might be the No. 1 possibility, but when he’s within the Tatum function, who’s his Jaylen Brown?
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8. Scottie Barnes performed one other sturdy sport and even led the cost within the fourth quarter. Barnes was good in a supporting function, selecting the correct moments to flash to open gaps when the defence converged within the paint to alleviate strain, knocked in a nook three, and was aggressive whereas remaining affected person within the paint towards Derrick White and Grant Williams. Defensively, Barnes principally made Tatum take powerful pictures within the first half, however nice scorers nonetheless discover methods to get theirs it doesn’t matter what. That is the kind of function that Barnes can comfortably fill for the Raptors, and there needs to be no complaints when he continues to convey one of these power and connectivity. He’ll proceed to refine particulars like being extra measured on closeouts whereas nonetheless containing the drive, or enhancing his jumper to be extra of a risk off-ball. There’s nothing that he did on this sport that couldn’t be repeatedly towards most opponents.
9. O.G. Anunoby’s defence actually stood out at occasions towards a few of the greatest scorers within the league. Brown did ultimately shake free, however Anunoby held him to 22 factors on 22 pictures, whereas additionally making assist rotations to make different stops. Anunoby was the important thing to the Raptors’ greatest stretch of the sport within the second quarter, the place he jumped passing strains for breakaway dunks whereas toggling between Boston’s premier scorers. Anunoby’s offence, nevertheless, was a letdown. He couldn’t capitalize on catch-and-shoot threes (which is a pattern to look at; Anunoby is taking pictures fewer threes than he has in 4 season and is taking pictures beneath league common) and had the ball slip out of his fingers at some actually premature moments.
10. Maybe all of the frustration on the Raptors is solely a product of misplaced expectations. The Raptors had a promising season final yr and completed sturdy regardless of a number of accidents to high gamers, which mixed with their youth painted the image of a franchise that was able to make a bounce. However with 1 / 4 of the season within the rearview, it’s arduous to be as brightly optimistic whereas ignoring the fact of the state of affairs. Siakam and Anunoby are high quality, however the Raptors are merely making an attempt to get Barnes, VanVleet, and Trent Jr. to return to the degrees they confirmed final season, with no precise reinforcements of notice. Toronto’s offseason additions had been Koloko, who reveals promise however is overmatched as a beginning heart, and Otto Porter Jr., who’s harm inclined and is a bench piece at greatest. There’s nonetheless no viable heart on the roster, neither is there a 3rd guard to spell the starters. If there actually are ambitions to take the subsequent step, it is going to require assist from the entrance workplace.
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