BOSTON – The Toronto Raptors, in the midst of their first losing skid of the season, will visit TD Garden Friday night, looking to get back on track against their Atlantic Division rival Boston Celtics.
Toronto hit a road bump following its league-best 12-1 start, dropping its last two games at home, including a frustrating, 106-104 loss to Pistons at the buzzer Wednesday night after leading by as many as 19 points.
“We’ve made a lot of mistakes,” starting forward Pascal Siakam said before Friday morning’s shootaround at TD Garden. “Obviously, last game we had a big lead and let them come back in the game, and in the end of the game we had a lot of miscommunications and stuff like that. So, we’ve just gotta tighten up a little bit and just play as a team like we always do.”
Specifically, the Raptors say they need to tighten up their defense after being outscored 29-16 during the fourth quarter Wednesday night.
“Defense should always be the No. 1 priority for us,” said veteran big man Serge Ibaka, “because some nights you may not make shots. Defense is going to help you win some of those close games. So, last night was last night, but we’ve got to learn from that and move on to tonight.”
The Raptors, in recent times, have done an excellent job of moving on from tough losses. They haven’t had a losing streak longer than two games since the 2016-17 season, and that’s thanks to their collective mental ability to get back up after being struck down.
“We have to understand, OK, we lost two games at home, so this is like a wake-up call,” said Ibaka. “Sometimes you can have a wake-up call in the morning and you say, ‘No, I want to stay in bed for five more minutes.’ Or you say, ‘You know what, I’m going to get up and go to work.’ So, I feel like we have that mentality, like when we lose two games in a row like that, we have the mentality to wake up and do better.”
The Celtics recently woke up from a losing skid of their own, rebounding from a 1-4 road trip with a 111-82 win over the Chicago Bulls Wednesday night. They will look to carry that momentum into Friday night’s matchup against the Raptors, with the hope of making a statement on national television.
Game 1 of the season series didn’t fall in Boston’s favor, as it dropped a 113-101 contest at Scotiabank Arena. However, that game was only the second of the campaign for the C’s, so they had yet to begin discovering a sense of identity.
“Early in the season when we played them in Toronto, it wasn’t who we are now or who we’re trying to grow into,” Kyrie Irving said leading into Friday’s game. “I think that it will be a great test for us. They have a lot of great players as we all well know, so we’re up for the challenge.”
As will be the Raptors, who aim to avoid their first three-game losing spell in two seasons when they hit the TD Garden court Friday night.