The Toronto Raptors had lost three of four and the Boston Celtics had won six of seven, but the team up north was able to flip the script and overcome a double-digit deficit in order to knock off the Celtics 114-106.
Many Raptors came up with huge days. DeMar DeRozan dropped 41 points and snagged 13 rebounds while Kyle Lowry had 24 points and Jonas Valanciunas dominated the glass and recorded 23 boards. A full box score can be found at ESPN.com. Here is tonight’s Beantown Baskets Three Pointer.
Layup: Olynyk, Green stepping up without Avery Bradley
Kelly Olynyk and Gerald Green aren’t really the names that would come to mind if you’re picking people who would need to step up in the absecnce of a guy like Avery Bradley, but they’ve been the guys to do it over the last two games. Green scored 15 points in Saturday’s win over the New Orleans Pelicans before putting up 14 points tonight while Olynyk – a Toronto native – put up 12 against the Pelicans with another 13 points tonight. The depth pieces on the Celtics struggled early in the year when guys like Horford, Crowder and Smart were missing games early on when their role players on the bench really struggled and it even got to the point where Green found himself out the rotation for a few weeks. It wasn’t enough to get the win tonight, but it’s still good to get more consistency out of these two guys on nights when Boston needs them to play well. Jonas Jerebko also had a solid night, scoring seven points on 2-for-3 shooting. It’s always going to be hard to beat a team this good when you’re not at full strength, but the only reason Boston competed tonight was because guys like these came to play.
Midrange Jumper: This is one where rebounding hurt
Jonas Valanciunas came down with 23 rebounds in this one and 11 of them were offensive; DeMar ReRozan added 13 more boards of his own to make things worse as the Celtics were out-rebounded 50-33 on the night as the Raptors took home a 17-6 advantage on the offensive glass. Rebounding has been a huge issue for the team all season long and it is probably the biggest reason why they fell tonight after giving the Raptors so many second chances. The loss of Jared Sullinger – who was 13th league wide in rebounds per possession last year – in the offseason looks bigger and bigger each day and Ainge really needs to fix this if Boston wants to have a shot at knocking off Toronto in a playoff series. One thing to remember is that Sullinger actually plays for the Raptors now, but he’s been out since the start of training camp since breaking his foot. Once he gets healthy and starts coming off the bench behind Valanciunas, the rebounding advantage that Toronto clearly has will be even more of an issue.
Three Pointer: Just face it, the Raptors are better…for now
A lot of people will use the Avery Bradley injury as an excuse for this loss, but the Raptors are just a better team right now. Toronto is 5-1 against the Celtics since the beginning of last season and that one loss came late last March when Kyle Lowery rested and many other key players played less minutes then usual because the Raptors were essentially locked into the second seed by that point. DeMar DeRozan has torched Boston over this stretch by averaging 26.3 PPG and 6.8 RPG over their six meetings and the 27-year old is currently having the best year of his career and Lowry hasn’t been too bad himself, averaging 23.6 PPG and 6.6 APG. They’re currently scoring more and allowing less points per game then the Celtics and it almost seems like Boston would need a full slate of players and a perfect performance to have a shot at knocking them off with these two rosters as is.
Isaiah Thomas has been praised for his fourth quarter heroics so far this season, but his 2-for-8 shooting performance tonight in the final frame was ugly and it seemed at times he was just trying to do too much as many looks were forced and he had four shots blocked in the fourth. Horford has a much higher basketball IQ and really should be the guy making decision with the ball late in close games.
Believe it or not, Tyler Zeller is the Celtics leader in rebounds per possession this year and tonight was the first game where you probably wished he was available. Zeller has missed the last three games with a bad sinus infection and could have played a few key minutes off the bench when things started to get ugly.
As nice as it’s been to have Olynyk and Green coming up big with Bradley out, Terry Rozier has been invisible and as a guard you’d almost expect the exact opposite. He was given just three minutes tonight and didn’t score a point.
These two teams won’t see each other against until February 1st and then they’ll also meet the day after the trade deadline, which could be interesting because new players might not be available yet as they are still traveling and waiting for physicals to clear and things like that.