Riding a season high 5 game winning streak the Raps headed to Beantown to face a team ravaged by injuries and shy three starters.
In a match-up that would have normally been pegged as an automatic loss the Raps had a chance to get a win and reach the .500 level.
Last night the table was set for the Raps to secure a big win on the road against the Atlantic Division leading Boston Celtics.
Instead, the Raps suffered a disappointing 103-96 loss.
On paper the Raps outmatched the Celtics last night with all of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and Marquis Daniels all on the bench. The Celtics were going to have to rely on the likes of Glen Davis, Eddie House and veterans Ray Allen and Rasheed Wallace to secure the win. You had to like the Raps chances.
Really, all the Raps had to do in order to get the W was come out with some intensity, heart and take the game to the undermanned Celtics.
What happened instead was the Celtics brought the intensity and the heart and despite some early foul trouble and being outmatched at almost every position on the floor, the men in green managed to pull out the win.
You can summarize last night's game with one of my favorite sayings - It's not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog.
The Celtics had way more fight.
Throughout last night's broadcast Jack Armstrong made the point that the Celtics had embraced a culture of defense, hard work and intensity. The face of that mantra is Kevin Garnett, but everyone has bought in and they have bought-in in a big way.
Despite having to give players like JR Giddens, Lester Hudson and Brian Scalabrine more than ten minutes of PT, the Celtics, as a team, kept up a high level of intensity throughout the game allowing them to withstand the Raps attempts to steal a W.
No matter who is on the court for the Celtics they never allow a shot to go unchallenged, each player is willing to hit the floor for a lose ball, and every player is ready to give a hard foul.
For the Raps? Not so much.
All game I was waiting to see the Raps seize the moment and step up. All game I was left disappointed and in awe of the Celtics ability to withstand the Raps efforts. Although the Celtics were missing their intimidators, they didn't miss a beat in terms of how they play.
The lack of intensity displayed by the Raptors was so readily apparent last night that Triano went to a line-up that featured both Marcus Banks and Pops Mensah-Bonsu at the start of the fourth quarter. Coach Triano was looking for someway to spark his team before it was too late.
Well the Raps did make a small run late in the fourth, but it was too late but frankly, it never should have gotten to that point.
The biggest advantage for the Raps last night was in the front-court. Bargs and Bosh, given their quickness and range, should have caused fits for the Celtics defenders.
Early signs were promising for the Raptors. Bosh and Bargs were attacking and getting great looks. The problem was the Celtics bigs were not going to go down without a fight. Not only were Wallace, Davis and Perkins forcing the action down low they were also dominating the glass. The grit and intensity of the Celtics big men matched the skill level of the Raps two best players.
Of couse not all of this loss can be placed on the shoulders of the Raps big men, despite their less than stellar performances in the second half. The other main contributing factor to last night's loss was the bench production.
Despite being so badly shorthanded the Celtics bench still outplayed the Raps bench. The Celtics bench outscored, outrebounded, and had doled out more assists than their Raptor counterparts. In a game where bench play was obviously going to be a determining factor this performance is just disheartening.
This loss is a big disappointment. After winning five games in a row against lesser teams, I was really looking forward to seeing how this team would respond against a higher quality opponent. I was hoping to see them ride their recent momentum and go on a serious run. I was hoping their recent wins would be just what the doctor ordered for getting things on track. Well my optimism has taken a big hit.
Of course all can be forgiven if the Raps can pull out a win at home tomorrow night against the San Antonio Spurs. Both teams will be playing their second games in a back-to-back situation so no excuses. I won't get into the three keys in much detail because it's been pretty obvious what this Raptors team needs to do in order to get Ws. They have to play defense, rebound the ball and show some grit/intensity. If even one of these three things don't show up tomorrow night it will just be another loss to a team with a record above .500....you know...the kind of team the Raps rarely beat.