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Boston Celtics Player Grades for 113-101 Road Loss to Raptors

After cruising to a win in the first game of the season against the Philadelphia 76ers, the Boston Celtics got outplayed late in the fourth quarter, dropping to 1-1 on the season with a road loss to the Toronto Raptors.

When asked about his team’s quality of shots in his first quarter interview against the Toronto Raptors Friday night on ESPN, Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens answered bluntly, “It’s October 19th basketball at its finest.”

After a sloppy start, however, Boston played well for large stretches of the game before succumbing late to Toronto, 113-101, at the ScotiaBank Arena. Kawhi Leonard led all scorers with 31 points, but it was Raptors guards Fred Van Vleet and Kyle Lowry who made the big plays down the stretch, on both ends of the floor.

After center Al Horford hit a three-pointer with 2:53 to pull the Celtics within two, 101-99, Van Vleet pushed the ball up the floor and found Danny Green, who buried a tough three from the right corner to answer Horford’s.

On the following possession, Lowry drew a charge on Jayson Tatum, then buried a three over Kyrie Irving (assist Van Vleet) to give the Raptors a 107-99 lead with two minutes remaining. Irving rimmed out a three of his own on the other end.

With just over a minute remaining, Van Vleet grabbed an offensive rebound and then Lowry hit a tough step back with 50 seconds left to give Toronto a 10-point lead to shut the door on Boston.

After leading the way in season-opening win, Tatum had a tough night, but the Celtics distributed the ball well, especially Irving and Horford, who combined for 15 of Boston’s 29 assists on 40 field goals. For context, the Golden State Warriors led the league in assists per game last season at 29.3; the Celtics has just seven games last season where they had more assists.

The player grades below represent how the Boston Celtics performed relative to each player’s expectation, given their past production, talent level, and role. The grades are not representative of how the players compare to their opponents or across the league. In that case, Al Horford would get an A every game.

Irving led the team in scoring with 21 points, but it took him 20 shots to get there. The 6-foot-3 point guard has missed some shots he normally makes in the first two games of the season, but that shouldn’t be cause for concern considering he’s one of the most efficient scorers in the league. On the other hand, Irving did a great job setting up his teammates and finished with six assists as he and Horford created much of the Celtics offense. The team’s leading scorer gets docked a bit here because he forced Celtics coach Brad Stevens to use a timeout in frustration in the first quarter after botching more than one defensive rotation.

Brown only played 24 minutes, but he scored 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting, including 3-of-6 from deep. The 6-foot-7 forward played great defense on Kawhi Leonard especially early in the game, holding the Raptors star to 9 points on 3-for-11 shooting in the first half. Brown also hit two three-pointers late in the second quarter to help give Boston the lead going into the break. He was the only Celtics starter who wasn’t a net negative in the game. On the other hand, Brown missed a  pair of free throws in the third quarter and a pair of layups in the fourth.

After a disappointing start to the season, Hayward played much better in the loss to Toronto. He scored 14 points and grabbed 7 rebounds in 24 minutes. The 6-foot-8 forward scored 6 points in the early going, hitting a transition pull-up jumper, nailing a turnaround over a smaller defender, and taking Kyle Lowry off the bounce on a defensive switch. Due to his minutes restriction, Hayward didn’t enter the second half until three minutes remaining in the third quarter but quickly hit a three on a good pass from Irving on the fast break, then nailed a nice pull up elbow jumper out of a pick-and-roll. Later, Hayward finished though contact for an and-one after crossing his defender. The only signs of rust came as he missed a couple shots you’d expect him to make, finishing 6-for-13, and at times looked like he was struggling to maintain balance and strength through physical contact, either in post defense, or when getting bumped on drives to the hoop.

In the Celtics first game, Tatum was probably the best player on the floor for Boston, but he struggled in his second game. The second-year forward finished the game with 16 points on 6-of-16 shooting, 9 rebounds, but 5 turnovers, including two offensive fouls in the fourth quarter. In the first half, Tatum took a few questionable shots, forcing up some tough mid-range pull ups, and missed Al Horford with great post position on a smaller defender. In the second half, Tatum had multiple frustrating defensive possessions, including once refusing to jump and challenge Kawhi Leonard at the rim for fear of getting dunked on and a particularly bad posssession against OG Anunoby in the fourth quarter.

Horford was the best player on the court for the Celtics Friday night in Toronto. The Celtics center finished one assist shy of a triple double in 33 minutes, with 14 points, 10 rebounds, and 9 assists. In addition to being the focal point of the offensive attack as Kyrie Irving’s pick-and-roll partner, Horford was crucial in corralling Kawhi Leonard defensively on the Celtics switches. Though Leonard scored 31 points, he was just 10-25 from the field on the night and didn’t do much damage outside of the third quarter. Throughout the game, but more importantly in the fourth quarter, Horford shut Leonard down on a handful of one-on-one switches. On the other end, the Raptors started Serge Ibaka to try to match up with Horford, but the Celtics center blew by whatever defender Toronto threw at him on the perimeter, whether it was Ibaka or Valanciunas, and peppered passes back out to open teammates. Horford also hit a big three to close the game to two late in the game, but the Celtics couldn’t get back over the hump. The only knock on Horford tonight was a couple missed open shots on the perimeter and in the post he’d like to have back.

We knew heading into the game that the match up of the two team’s benches would be key to deciding the outcome. The Celtics second unit started off the game strong, with Terry Rozier and Marcus Morris (8 points each) coming into the game and making an early impact. Aron Baynes grabbed 6 rebounds in 14 minutes,  including 4 offensive rebounds. Marcus Smart dished out 6 assists, including a beautiful leave-behind bounce pass to Brown for a transition three mid-way through the fourth quarter. However, Smart took some bad shots, and finished 1-for-6 from the field and the bench failed to make a positive impact in the second half. Morris was guarding Leonard through much of his scoring success in the third period. Toronto’s Fred Van Vleet outplayed anybody on Boston’s bench, scoring 11 points and dishing out 7 assists while coming up big down the stretch.

Though the Celtics let this game get away from them at the end, there is a lot for the team to be happy with, especially the pace and ball-movement on offense. After watching tape, Boston coach Brad Stevens will certainly have some things he’ll want his team to clean up, particularly on the defensive end.

Next: 15 Clutchest Players in Boston Celtics History

Boston will not have time to lament the loss, however, as they face the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night at 7:30. The Celtics depth should help them avoid a stumble in the second night of a road back-to-back.

 

 

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