Article Written by Jacob Pacheco (@JacobPacheco6)
After three days off, the Toronto Raptors were in Boston last night to take on a familiar opponent in the Celtics at the TD Garden. These two teams have met twice already this season, both splitting those games at one win a piece. Going into last night’s match up, the Raptors had won five in a row while, the Celtics have been heading in the opposite direction, with many rumors going around on social media about Kyrie Irving possibly leaving Boston at the end of this season. The Celtics haven’t exactly lived up to the hype just yet and seem to really be struggling as a unit from time to time as they sit fifth in the Eastern Conference.
Although the Celtics have lost three in a row, they have been absolutely dominating at home in their last six games, winning all six games and averaging 120 points per game. The Raptors looked to end that hot streak the Celtics had as Toronto would be without CJ Miles with a hip injury and OG Anunoby who left the team to be with family for personal reason. There was some good news as Toronto would welcome Fred VanVleet back Into the lineup after missing the double overtime thriller against Washington on Sunday.
It was a high-scoring affair to start the game as both teams came out of the gates rolling, both shooting 59 percent after the first 12 minutes as Toronto led 36-30 behind Kawhi Leonard’s nine points. Although Toronto led through the first quarter, the Celtics put up a total 13 bench points compared to Toronto’s 4 points, courtesy of Norman Powell. All looked good, until the second quarter.
Toronto struggled in the following 12 minutes. Easy and open shots were not falling for Toronto and the Celtics’ bench completely controlled the pace, out-playing Toronto as a whole. After shooting nearly 60 percent in the first quarter, that percentage dropped to 42 percent for Toronto at halftime, while Boston stayed right at 59 percent. Gordan Hayward was a big contributor off the bench for Boston as he carried the load, leading them to 24 bench points to Toronto’s 10. It’s also been no secret that Toronto’s three-point shooting has not been up to par recently; as a matter a fact, all season. That continued last night, not making one three-pointer in the second quarter, combining 2-of-15 from beyond the arc at halftime. This poor performance cost Toronto, which resulted in losing the second quarter 34-17 and trailed Boston by 13.
The third quarter was tremendously better for Toronto as they took better shotsr and played every defensive possession with high intensity. The Raptors shots started to fall as Toronto started feeding the ball into the paint to Serge Ibaka as he was the leading point scorer for Toronto with 22 points, 1 point ahead of Leonard. This dominate 3rd quarter from Toronto resulted in the Raptors only trailing Boston by 4 when they were down by as many as 16.
One thing many Raptors’ fans know and love is that this team never quits and always makes a case for a great comeback. Although they were down 16 at one point, it was no surprise they made another comeback, battling all the way back on the road and actually gained the lead over Boston late in the 4th quarter. But that’s when it all came crashing down. With Toronto up 4 with 4:22 to play, and all the momentum heading into the final minutes, they let it slip away and by a lot. At the 3:54 mark, Boston ended the game on a ridiculous 17-4 run to stun Toronto and end their five-game winning streak, while snapping their own three game losing streak. As a result, the Celtics also remain perfect at home over their last seven home games.
Kawhi Leonard finished the game with 33 points, meaning Leonard had now scored 20+ points in 20 straight games for Toronto. An incredible stat, as he is now three games shy of tying Vince Carter for the most consecutive 20 plus point outings for the franchise. Fred VanVleet had a dreadful night off the bench with 0 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists. Also, off the bench, only two Raptors made it onto the score sheet: Norman Powell and Greg Monroe; both putting up 11 points. On a night without OG Anunoby, someone else needed to step up of the bench, but to no avail.
The fourth and final meeting of the season between these two teams will come February 26th in Toronto, with Boston leading the season series 2-1.
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