Celtics keep Raptors at bay with 3s

The Toronto Raptors finish their 6-game road trip at TD Garden against the Boston Celtics. It was raining 3s as Boston snapped their 2-game losing streak with the 120-106 win.

From the tip, it was clear Toronto’s defence was focused on containing Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. They did just that, limiting the duo to a combined 8 of 27 from the field. Tatum put up 17 in his lowest scoring night in the last 8 games. Brown also had a season low 12 points in 32 minutes. While Toronto’s defence locked down two of Boston’s biggest scoring threats, it couldn’t contain Semi Ojeleye and Payton Pritchard.

It was a career night for Ojeleye. He went 6 of 8 from deep, to score 24 points in 30 minutes. He was hot early and his teammates took notice. He shot a season high 8 of 12 from the floor and grabbed 6 rebounds. Pritchard continued his confident shooting against Toronto with 20 points and 5 rebounds. He was also lights out from deep. The two combined for 12 of Boston’s 20 made 3’s, shooting 67% from beyond the arc.

For the 3rd time this season, the Raptors would fall on the second night of a back to back. Kyle Lowry led the team with 24 points and 6 assists. He shot 10 of 15 from the field but struggled from deep. Despite the teams struggles to make 3’s (they shot 9 of 28), Toronto was never completely out of it. In the 3rd, they had an opportunity to cut into Boston’s lead; they forced 8 straight Celtic misses, but couldn’t convert on their offence; they were playing Boston basketball. Toronto is at their best when they run and push the pace, but they couldn’t get into the open floor. While they average 16 fast break points, they only had 5 on Thursday.

Despite the loss, Pascal Siakam had another solid night. He scored 23 points on 8 of 14 shooting. Norman Powell had 15, with Chris Boucher adding 12 points off the bench. Toronto controlled the paint, outscoring Boston 58-32, but gave up 60 points (compared to 27) from beyond the arc.

Since the Raptors game 7 loss to the Celtics, Boston has had the edge. In a tight Atlantic Division, these inter-division games are always important. While your final record gets you into the playoffs, if you are tied in the standings, the team with the better head-to-head gets the higher seeding. Boston now owns a 2-0 record against Toronto and will secure the higher seed should the two teams end the regular season with the same record.

The Raptors fought hard, but didn’t seem to have enough gas for a comeback. Before the game Celtics coach Brad Stevens shared his thoughts about the teams early struggles: “I got a kick out of everybody talking about Toronto’s downfall 8 games into the season. That wasn’t going to last… they’re too good, they’re too well coached, they’ve got too good of an environment”. Since starting the season 2-7, Toronto has slowly turned things around.

With only 3 games separating seeds 3 through 8, the Raptors will need to lock in on their defence. 4 of their next 6 games will be against the top seeds in the East. It will be a test of the teams current success, and could very easily be the ultimate confidence booster for Toronto as the season continues.

Next up… Toronto is back home to face the 6-19 Minnesota Timberwolves. Tipoff is 9pm EASTERN at Amalie Arena.

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