With little help beyond Fred VanVleet, Toronto struggled again and gave Jayson Tatum a monster performance.
During three weeks of basketball, it was difficult to figure out how different the 2020-21 Raptors look than the 2019-20 version of the same team. A few faces aren’t here, but much of the core has remained intact. The joyful, fast-paced style from Toronto’s pre-bubble game has been nowhere to be found since – and instead the questions keep adding up with no answers to be found.
A nightmare start to the season continued for the Raptors on Monday when they were thoroughly beaten by the Celtics 126-114. The rematch between two teams that met in last season’s Eastern Conference semifinals was dominated by Jayson Tatum, who lost 40 points in just 19 shots and added six rebounds, two assists and one block.
Toronto had no answers for Tatum. Similar to their fall playoff series, they struggled to defend him without a foul – and sent the boy to the front of the charity strip, where he played a perfect 13-on-13 game.
You didn’t do much to make up for that on the other end, either. On another glowing start, the team climbed double-digit, but aside from an outstanding performance from Fred VanVleet – 35 points (13:20), eight rebounds, three assists, two steals – the production just wasn’t there.
The Raptors bench only had one field goal in the first half while Pascal Siakam scored most of their 22 points, with Toronto already well behind as Nick Nurse kept his starters in a blowout to remove some kinks.
Kyle Lowry had 18 points of support and only marked -5, despite the collapse of the world around him. This guy.
It’s been a great start for Toronto as it has had most of the games this season. Lowry, Siakam and VanVleet scored three goals in the first three minutes when the team took the lead 17-5 at the first stop. Played with energy, the Raptors took advantage of an undersized Celtics line-up that was missing several bodies, including Kemba Walker and Marcus Smart. With 5’10 ”Tremont Waters on the grid, Toronto did the right thing and attacked from their back seat. Fred went 4v4 from the deep as the Raptors went into round two 32-23.
As soon as the bank walked in, the good mood evaporated. A pre-game broadcast of complaints by Nick Nurse included the fact that Stanley Johnson would continue to earn minutes near the top of the rotation. He did so on Monday (after a surprise breakout for Malachi Flynn, who was struggling in team defense) and Johnson’s minutes were almost on the verge of the Raptors’ collapse. On a series of round two events, Johnson lost an out of bounds theft, Norman Powell attempted a floater off the free throw line, and Johnson missed a wide open three.
The Celtics capitalized and a few more: Tatum had 21 of his 40 in the second quarter alone as Boston did a 20-6 run while the Raptors fell below 50% on paint shots. It looked a bit like the playoff streak at both ends, but the fight just wasn’t there for Toronto. The Celtics entered halftime at 15.
The second half didn’t provide any answers for the Raptors. Siakam had a nice stretch in the third, blocking a shot and finishing a dunk, but there was never any momentum for the team. Here, too, the production simply wasn’t there. OG Anunoby went 3-8 and scored ten points. Aron Baynes and Alex Len were goalless in the middle in 23 minutes. Powell was 1: 6 and marked a -15.
Fortunately, the third unit of the Raptors made the score a little friendlier in the fourth. Yuta Watanabe put in some energy, made a three and played a frenetic defense. With a lead of ten, the Celtics brought their starters back and closed the door in the final at 2:30 am.
With so much going wrong at the same time, it’s difficult to prescribe a fix that will turn things around in the short term. Right now, the Raptors only have one thing to work on at a time. Their next game is against Phoenix on Wednesday.
Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors, Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart, NBA, Jeff Teague
World News – USA – Raptors of Tatum and the Celtics, 126-114
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