Raptors crushed in Boston
By MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency
|Celtics Kevin Garnett (left) moves the ball past Raptors' Jonas Valanciunas, Linas Kleiza and Terrence Ross on Saturday at TD Garden in Boston. (REUTERS)
They may as well call the arena here, Where Raptors Come To Die.
Once again, a visit to the TD Garden to play the Celtics ended in the same 20-or-so point loss so many of the previous ones have had.
Even when the Raptors have caught the Celtics in a bit of a cold spell over that span, the result rarely changes.
And it didn’t again on a rare Saturday afternoon matinee, with the Raptors losing 107-89.
What’s maddening is the consistency with which this happens.
The loss yesterday was No. 9 in a row here for the Raptors by an average spread of just over 14 points. The past four losses in Boston have been by an average of 24 points.
In Saturday’s loss the Raptors came out looking like they had left their shooting legs back at the team hotel. Worse, the Celtics could barely miss, making for a 30-17 first quarter.
The Raps fought back with a solid second quarter and a good first half of the third but couldn’t sustain it.
“ It was like we had a rhythm going offensively, then we got out of kilter and stopped doing what got us there — running the floor, attacking the paint, drive and kick — those things you have to do a better job of in those stretches,” Casey said.
The killer was an 18-5 run to end the third quarter by the Celtics. It came immediately after the Raps had closed to within two and it took away whatever fight they might have had left.
Casey was not at all happy with the lack of intensity on the defensive end.
“Until we get a rhythm defensively and take pride in our defence stopping them in man to man and not having to play zone for such a long period of time, that’s when we’ll be OK,” Casey said.
The Raptors head coach used the zone extensively in the second and into the third to get his team back in the game with some decent success, before the Celtics adjusted and started torching the zone defence and forced the Raptors out of it.
Andrea Bargnani’s afternoon pretty much mirrored the game score.
After two early buckets he was invisible for the remainder of the first half.
In the third, after the Raptors second unit had whittled a 17-point lead down to just five to end the half, Bargnani came out energized. He was hitting his spot-up three’s but he was also driving past Celtics defenders and getting to the rim.
The Raptors big man scored 11 of his 15 points in that third quarter but as quickly as the light went on, it seemed to go off again.
“We had a bad defensive stretch and they went up about 20 points and that was the game right there,” Bargnani said pointing to a five-minute stretch from the 3:30 mark for the third to the 10:30 mark of the fourth when the game went from a two-point Boston lead to a 21-point Boston lead.
“That’s our biggest issue (inconsistent defence),” he said. “One day we play good defence and then there are games like today where we play very bad defence so I can’t say it’s getting better. We have to focus more and give a better effort.”
Nine games into the season, Casey feels it’s still a matter of the new faces and the rookies finding their way into a defensive comfort zone that the bulk (though not all) of the returnees possess.
“We have some new faces and that has something to do with it too,” Casey said. “You can tell the guys who were here before have a rhythm and know the rotations, it’s a little bit easier for them. Until our new guys and our younger guys pick it up, we’re going to struggle. It’s going to take time.”
The Raptors won’t have long to dwell on this one or let it fester.
They’re right back at it Sunday afternoon playing host to the Orlando Magic, a team that is dealing with far bigger changes than the Raptors have made.
Whether that equates to a win, only time will tell, but the “It’s early” explanation is only going to last for so much longer.
KG GETS ON BIG V
Jonas Valanciunas got his first taste of Kevin Garnett and chances are he’ll want another crack.
The Raptors’ fifth overall pick from the 2011 draft had his hands full with the Celtics big man who played just over 17 minutes but still managed 15 points and five rebounds.
Valanciunas was hearing a lot about Garnett heading into the game, but had already settled on one strategy when it came to dealing with the expected taunts Garnett would bring.
“I’m going to pretend like I don’t understand it,” Valanciunas said smiling broadly before the game.
There wasn’t much to smile about afterwards.
Garnett missed just one of his seven field goal attempts, relying for the most part on a fall-back jumper that he was having plenty of success with.
Head coach Dwane Casey expected his rookie centre was going to be in for a tough night, but he wasn’t about to shield him from Garnett.
“Again, it’s growing pains, it’s worth it, and it’s going to pay great dividends down the road,” Casey said.