Biggest mistake Celtics made in ugly loss to Raptors

Nick Friar
December 29, 2019 - 6:45 am
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A lot went wrong for the Celtics on Saturday.

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They didn’t shoot well. Their transition defense was subpar. And although they got to the line a lot, the Celtics only made 28 of their 36 free throw attempts (77.8%).

But Boston had one problem in the 113-97 loss to Toronto which was more significant than the rest. (For a complete recap of the Celtics' loss, click here.)

“I don’t think tonight is as much about us. (The Raptors) came in here and set the tone for how the game was going to be played,” Brad Stevens said. “Played with great energy. They looked like people that were the last team standing last year, just, they played with great make-up today.”

The fact Stevens felt it was more about the Raptors should sound off alarms for the Celtics. Because that also says a lot about Boston.

It’s one thing for an opponent to outplay the Celtics, but they can’t allow other teams to set the tone. Title-contending teams don’t let that happen.

Especially when they’re facing teams like the Raptors, who — similar to the Sixers and Bucks – can outplay the Celtics on any given night, when healthy. Boston has to take charge against teams with equal or superior talent. Otherwise, they’re going to find themselves playing catch-up often — and at the most important time of the year.

“Toronto just raised their level of intensity,” Jaylen Brown said. “We weren’t ready to handle it. We got to adapt quicker and we got to be more physical with the basketball. Starting with me.

“I think that’s what the playoffs (are) going to be like. That type of intensity, that type of aggression and we got to be able to match that. We got to be tougher.”

Like Stevens, Kemba Walker felt more inclined to give the Raptors credit for their tone-setting.

“So much credit to those guys and the way they played and came out from the very beginning of the game,” he said. “They wanted it more, man. You could tell. They deserved that win, no question.”

Now, the result isn’t so much the point in all of this. Just like everyone else, the Celtics are going to lose games. And when Gordon Hayward is ice cold (3-for-13 from the floor, 1-for-7 from three), Jayson Tatum provides limited offense (3-for-7, 0-for-2 from three) and Marcus Smart is hoisting up shots even though he’s off (2-for-9, 1-for-5 from three), Boston is usually in for a long night.

But, they will give themselves a much better chance on tough shooting nights if they set the pace.

The Celtics only have so many games against the high-quality Eastern Conference teams. They have to take full advantage of those opportunities if they want to be ready come the postseason.

The Celtics shot a season-worst 21.9% from 3-point territory on Saturday. It’s the sixth time they’ve shot worse than 30% from long-range in a game this season.

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