Here are 10 takeaways from the Toronto Raptors’ 122-100 loss to the Boston Celtics in the fourth of eight seeding games ahead of the 2020 NBA playoffs.
One — Disappointing: The Raptors just didn’t show up tonight. Their effort was lacking from start to finish. The upstart side that surprised the Lakers and muzzled the Heat was nowhere to be found. It was a complete no-show by every member of the team. Give credit to the Celtics for putting on a clinic, but this was hardly indicative of what a future match-up would be between these two sides.
Two — Uncharacteristic: Let’s be real — the Raptors aren’t a team that can coast on talent. What makes this team successful is how well they play together, and how committed they are on defense. If that isn’t there, the Raptors won’t win, and that’s what we saw tonight. After falling into an early hole, each player took turns trying to shoot a 20-point shot to single-handedly climb back into the game. Boston smartly sat back on those misses, and got easy baskets in transition to stretch out their lead.
Three — Concern: If there is anything to be taken from a lopsided result like this, it’s that maybe the Raptors’ swarming defensive strategy isn’t suited for this opponent. Boston has too many playmakers on the wing, and they’re all capable passers who can find the open shooter. The Raptors consistently sent extra bodies at Boston’s pick-and-rolls, and the Celtics beat them with easy ball movement. Granted, much of Toronto’s success hinges on applying ball pressure, and there was almost none of that to speak of, but it’s worth evaluating if the Raptors should rotate so willingly against a team full of shooters.
Four — Missing: Pascal Siakam got two baskets in the third quarter, but was terrible on the whole. He has not been sharp in four seeding games, and this was by far his worst effort. Similar to the game against Orlando where he had seven turnovers, this was another loose performance from Siakam. His reads were poor, his shot was wayward, and it was clear that he was frustrated. After driving into traffic and getting ripped by Brad Wanamaker, Siakam committed a lazy foul and two free throws instead of hustling back in transition. The Raptors aren’t going very far until they get Siakam back on track.
Five — Unfortunate: Serge Ibaka left the game in the second half after getting poked in the eye while being dunked on by Gordon Hayward. Ibaka was struggling until that point — he continues to look slow and disconnected with the second unit — despite the Celtics being a matchup in where he usually thrives. Hopefully there isn’t anything serious because the Raptors need Ibaka on the floor and back to where he was when the season was halted. That swaggering, smooth, and efficient Ibaka is missing, replaced by a reactive and a hesitant doppelganger that is dragging down the second unit.
Six — Focus: Defenses are making more of a point to key in on Norman Powell, who has yet to explode for a 20-point effort that used to be commonplace earlier this season. It feels as if Powell isn’t quite in rhythm because nothing he’s getting looks easy. If he does score, it’s because he’s capable of forcing the issue, but he’s not scoring efficiently. The second unit isn’t defending well, which is leading to fewer run outs for Powell to shine in transition. Nurse is brought Powell in earlier as his first substitute tonight so he could get more time with the starters, which is a good call. Another adjustment would be to have Powell share more of his minutes with Gasol, as opposed to Ibaka.
Seven — Solid: Gasol was the only rotation player unaffected by the Raptors’ total lack of effort. He was a port in a storm, getting two turnaround jumpers, pummelling Daniel Theis in the post, and tossing two dimes to Powell and Fred VanVleet for two of Toronto’s easiest baskets of the night. Against teams like the Celtics who completely abandon Gasol to have their center help in the paint, it’s imperative for Gasol to get more involved with more threes at the top of the arc. Only three attempts in 22 minutes is too few.
Eight — Lost: Rookie Terence Davis showed great energy, but he’s losing trust with his performances. In a key stretch in the second quarter where the Celtics first pulled away, Davis made three key errors. First, he drove into traffic, jumped into the air, and passed it straight to Jayson Tatum who took it in for a layup. Then, he was late on a rotation and that breakdown led to another basket. Finally, he didn’t make a single pass as he attacked head-down into Boston’s center which should have gotten him benched. Davis was active in garbage time, which is encouraging, but he’s been missing in action so far.
Nine — Absence: Pat McCaw left the bubble to have an examination on his knee, so hopefully everything is alright on that front. McCaw was not a fan-favourite, but he was favoured by Nurse for his defense and unselfish nature. With the bench struggling as a whole, McCaw’s absence is felt. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is handling the ball more often, but he’s a liability on offense. Davis is making too many mistakes to be trusted. Powell isn’t a ball-handler. As much stick as he took, McCaw does have a role to play.
Ten — Wow: Performances like this is why Boston is so feared in the East. They can turn on the intensity on defense, and there’s enough firepower between their top four players that any opponent should feel uneasy. The Celtics have won the season series 3-1 against the Raptors, and they have impressed in wins over the Clippers and Lakers. They don’t always play like this, but just on talent alone, they should be in the top tier of the East with Toronto and Milwaukee.
More coverage on Yahoo Sports Canada