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.
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.
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.