For The Second Time This Season The Celtics Blow A Double Digit Lead Against Toronto

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One of these days the Celtics are not going to blow double digit leads against the Toronto Raptors, and it will be glorious. Until that happens, last night was just more of the same when these two teams lace em up. Dating back to last season, the Celtics are 1-5 against the Raptors. They haven’t won the season series since the 2012-13 season. The last time the Celtics won in TOR was a 117-116 OT win in 2015. All of these games are generally close, which makes the losses that much harder to stomach. In several instances the Celtics had control of the game and let it slip, as has been the case so far this season.

It’s pretty simple, as Pedro once said, the Raptors are our “Daddy” I guess. Now I don’t think there is a giant gap between the two teams, in fact quite the opposite, I think they are pretty even, but the Celtics will have no chance of ever getting past TOR unless they address some pretty glaring weaknesses that the Raptors exposed again last night.

Something I saw fly around Twitter that really bugged me was once the game started turning, I started to see the “no Avery” bullshit. I’m sorry, but not one of us were saying “yeah but no Avery” when the Celtics were dominating and up 16, so the fact that he didn’t play has ZERO to do with why the Celtics lost this game. I want to be clear on that. Does it suck that both times the Celts have faced TOR they have been missing key pieces, sure, but both losses are the result of self inflicted wounds, not because a certain guy didn’t play.

I’m sure we’ll hear all about how the Celtics can’t beat good teams once again and all that bullshit, and while one game does not change much (win or loss), when you collapse like that you have to take your lumps.

Ok, let’s get started.

The Good

–┬áThere were a lot of reasons why the Celts lost this game, which we’ll get to, but one of the reasons they were even in the game to begin with was the play of Isaiah Thomas. He wasn’t perfect by any stretch, but his 27/1/7 with 1 TO came on decent shooting (8-19 and 3-7 from deep) and he for the most part matched Kyle Lowry point for point. The scoring from Isaiah is certainly nothing that surprises us, but man the way he passed the ball in this game truly stood out to me.

Several times the Raptors made a deliberate effort to blitz the shit out of Isaiah whenever the Celts ran a high screen for him, sometimes as far out as 30+ ft from the basket. Every time they did, Isaiah didn’t panic and simply made the correct basketball play that resulted in wide open looks for easy buckets, like here

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In addition to that, I was pleased with Isaiah’s decision making where instead of taking a tough shot for himself, he created a better shot for a teammate. Not every pass has to be flashy to impress me, you make the right basketball decision, I’ll notice

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Isaiah could have taken the shot in both those clips, and for a guy that apparently doesn’t move the ball, that certainly didn’t appear to be a problem

But, this was the best pass he made all night obviously

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– It’s not often the Celtics play a near flawless 12 minutes, but that second quarter was pretty damn close. Offensively, they put up 37 points and shot 66/50% splits which is ridiculous, but more importantly, they defended. Causing seven TOs in the quarter, you saw a 5 point deficit turn into a 9 point lead at the half. A big part of that turnaround was the job that Marcus Smart did on Lowry who had 3 TOs himself, but the Celts also got lucky that JV only played around two minutes. I thought the communication was much better, and after a stellar 34 seconds of Jaylen Brown action, Gerald Green came in and lit up all of Canada. I’m not sure what it says that we need to get this sort of production out of Gerald, but I can’t say I hate it. Yeah it stunts development to some degree, but you need to play the hot hand and he’s playing really well.

– In his second consecutive game filling in for Avery, you can’t say Marcus hasn’t risen to the challenge. After his great performance against NO, he backed it up with another solid 16/4/5/4 on 6-11 shooting (1-2 from deep). Of the starters that played real minutes he was a team best -6 (spinzone!) and we’re seeing Smart flourish in his ideal role of facilitator, and not scorer. The way he passes the ball have me convinced he should never play SG again. It has nothing to do with his shooting woes, and more that you can clearly see he feels more comfortable throwing the pass than receiving it. In a game with no Avery and Rozier only plays three minutes, you can see Brad feels the same way. Play Marcus and you get plays like this

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– Call me crazy, but I didn’t hate the Toronto Huskies court/jersey. Has no one else played 2K and seen these already? If you aren’t aware the Toronto Huskies were a team in the BAA (pre NBA league) in 1946. They were shitty and played just one season, but I’m all for good throwbacks and for me this qualified.

– Glad to see Kelly “showed out” by Kelly standards in his home country. I’m sure they were also happy he played so much because you know, they manhandled him a little bit.

The Bad

– Yes, that might have been the shortest Good section so far this season, because there is so much more to talk about in these next two. Let’s start with the obvious, and something that I touched on in the open. This team loves blowing double digit leads against this team. In their first matchup, it was a double digit lead in the third, and then this happened

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In that game it was more like a tidal wave of Raptors dominance, and this one stung because it was at home, but at this point in the season the Celts were playing mostly like dogshit, so I dealt with it. Well, now we have a game like last night, when the Celtics are rolling, playing some of their best basketball, and

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Much more painful and frustrating this time around, because from about midway of the second, through the last two minutes of this game, the Celtics were in control. Up by as much as 16. Nothing like a good old fashion Celtics collapse to remind us all how much more there is to figure out before the playoffs roll around.

Where do I think the game changed? With this play by Jae Crowder with 4:37 remaining.

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Two things are simply the kiss of death for this Celtics team. Lazy defense, and settling for ill advised threes/jumpers. I can understand his thought, as Isaiah drew both defenders for a split second, but he took that shot with 15 seconds left on the shot clock which bugs the hell out of me. There were a handful of times the Celtics had these type of bad threes that I basically count as turnovers. The Celtics didn’t have one player under the basket, TOR’s center was 25 ft from the basket, why the need to rush a three here? What it did was spark a TOR run and the beginning of VERY poor late game execution from the Celtics.

Jae’s been slumping since the whole Twitter disaster, and plays like this aren’t going to help him feel any less heat. I have no problem with Jae taking threes, he’s having a career year, but these are the type of shots I expect Marcus to take, not him. He’s done this before this season, surprisingly also around the 4 minute mark in a game the Celts lost, and to me that’s no accident.

– I talk about late game execution, and really it’s pretty rare the Celtics have a fourth quarter like this. After that Jae shot, here’s what the offense did as the game started to slip away

Horford 17ft jumper: miss

Isaiah 27ft three: miss

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Isaiah 18 ft jumper: miss

After each of these misses, TOR came down and scored, and just like that it was a wrap. So I don’t want to hear about how not having Avery lost them this game. The offense they ran, or lack thereof, was the reason TOR completed this comeback, and that’s what makes me so annoyed. The Celtics are one of if not the best fourth quarter team in the NBA, they’ve proven that, so they picked a bad time to have the worst fourth of the season.

– JV had 23 rebounds. He had 10 in the third and 7 were OREB. If this wasn’t the last bit of abuse Danny needed to see before realizing he has a serious C problem, nothing will. You can’t get past TOR because they kill you on the glass Danny. JV had never had a rebounding performance like that in his professional career, but here come the Celtics to give it to him! It’s clear the Celtics have the firepower to hang with TOR, but when things get tight, they are the ones getting the big offensive rebound, or the big block. I don’t care who it is, give me Boban, Faried, Bogut, Vucevic, Monroe, I don’t care, but this needs to be addressed.

– Can’t have Kelly Olynyk getting the ball stolen from him on a rebound on a missed FT. Can’t have it plain and simple.

– Everyone knows DeRozen is a midrange jump shooter, but I thought the Celtics could have done a little better of a job preventing him from getting into the paint so easily. Where was Marcus? Where was Jae?

The Ugly

– You may not have noticed because they’ve been winning, but the Celtics defense is no where close to being fixed. I have them down for one good defensive quarter in this game, and it didn’t come in either quarter in the second half. Giving up 114 points is too many, and 10 more than their average. Giving up 64 points in the second half is how you blow a lead, and I know everyone wants to talk about a BOS/TOR second round matchup, but that is not going to happen if they keep defending like this.

– The Celtics were up 9 with 6:11 left, and were tied at 2 minutes. Woof.

– Poor Jaylen man. Guy makes one rookie mistake fouling a three point shooter and he gets yanked for the rest of the game. I’m not sure why Brad didn’t at least throw Jaylen at DeRozen just to try something different since nothing else was working, but as soon as he made that mistake my heart sank for him because I knew he was cooked for the night. Brad was pissed.

– We need to call a spade a spade. Horford and Isaiah had pretty awful fourth quarters, especially late. Now this doesn’t mean they aren’t “closers” or any of that other bullshit the trolls are frothing at the mouth to talk about today. The problem was they rushed, and as the lead started to shrink, the team as a whole started to panic. That shit happens every once in a while. One loss against TOR does not mean the Celtics plan is a failure or anything like that so spare me, but if I want to be fair I have to call them out. Can’t beat good teams when your two best players go 4-12 in the final frame.

 

The good news is the Celts are right back at it again tonight against the Wizards, and early reports are Avery should be good to go. Losses like this can start a little slide if you aren’t careful, so while beating the Wizards doesn’t mean much, I think it will do a lot for the psyche of this team. We didn’t learn anything too different from what we already knew when it comes to the TOR/BOS matchup, and if the Celts make some adjustments and get back to playing defense, it could end up being a pretty entertaining series. In the meantime….

Washington

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