Toronto was back “home” in Tampa Monday night, to face Eastern Conference and division rivals the Boston Celtics. The last time both teams faced each other was in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals where Boston sent Toronto home. In their first meeting of the season the Celtics continued their winning ways, handing Toronto the 126-114 loss.
Jayson Tatum was brilliant. Fresh off his five-year, $195 million contract extension, Tatum continues to improve his game. He scored 40 points, on 11 of 19 shooting with 5 made three’s and was perfect from the free throw line (13/13). He continues to shine in big moments and step up when his team needs it. In Monday nights win, Tatum rallied his team to a 27-6 run in the 2nd. He scored 21 of his points in the quarter to give Boston the lead. It was a deficit Toronto couldn’t come back from.
Rookie Payton Pritchard put up a career best 23 points off the bench. It was the Celtics bench that made the difference, outscoring Toronto 60-26. Chris Boucher had a quiet 9 points, to go along with Terrence Davis’s 13. Norman Powell continued to struggle, going 1 for 6. It was also a rough night for Aron Baynes and Alex Len, who went for a combined 0 for 6 from the field.
Despite the teams struggles, Fred VanVleet has looked more locked in than ever. He led Toronto with 35 points (1 point shy of his career best) on 65% shooting and went 6 for 9 from deep. VanVleet continues to be the best player on the court for the Raptors and he does it with his head down and no hesitation.
Pascal Siakam had one of his better shooting nights, adding 22 points and 6 rebounds. We saw a glimpse of the aggressive Siakam of seasons past, when he went coast to coast for a strong finish over Tristan Thompson.
Game notes: Toronto put up decent defensive numbers but failed to convert on those stops. They forced 19 turnovers, but only converted 15 points off those chances. Much of the Raptors success comes from fast break opportunities. They’re a different team when they’re running the floor. Last season they led the league with the most fast break points per game (18.2).
Next up… Toronto begins their 4-game road trip against Devin Booker and the Phoenix Suns. Tip off is 9pm Eastern at PHX Arena.