The Raptors best game of the season still wasn't enough. Individual efforts by Paul Pierce and Ricky Davis led the Boston Celtics to a comeback win over Toronto in a 100-93 victory for Boston. The Raptors for a change had a good first quarter, but couldn't keep the momentum up over the entire 48 minutes and a 10-4 Celtics run in the final minutes of the game sealed the deal. Chris Bosh led the Raptors again scoring 24 points, grabbing 14 rebounds and handing out 3 assists. Charlie Villanueva got into foul trouble in the second half limiting his minutes but he had 18 first half points and his totals for the game included 18 points, 6 rebounds and 4 steals.
The Raptors were slightly out rebounded in the contest 43-37 but had 6 more offensive rebounds and less turnovers (15-12). The rebounding was a problem late in the game when the Raptors were unable to corral a few of their own defensive rebounds leading to increased Boston opportunities. The Raptors did a good job against the Celtics big men but indeed it was Davis and Pierce who simply took the Raptors down. Both players had 26 points and Pierce also chipped in 11 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals shooting 10-12 from the free throw line while Davis shot 10-14 in the game and had 7 assists and 5 rebounds. The real story of this game was simply ineffective shooting by Toronto. The team shot only 39.3 % while the Celtics shot 48.6% making up for their poor shooting earlier in the game.
FRANCHISE'S CRITICAL BEATDOWN:
As the clock ticked down and the Raptors were handed their ninth straight loss, there was very little reason to be optimistic. With future games against high powered offenses such as Miami (even without Shaq), Phoenix and the Los Angeles Clippers, there may not be much light at the end of the tunnel. There was no excuse for the Raptors losing this game either as opposed to previous ones. They didn't have to dig themselves out of a 40 point first quarter hole as with Philadelphia and Seattle, didn't have to play a much more talented team such as Cleveland or have to play a team such as the Pistons who've had essentially the same squad for the past 3 seasons. No, the Raptors simply took some bad shots down the stretch, missed open looks and had no answer for Paul Pierce or Ricky Davis. It was the individual talents of those two that were the difference and even great games by Chris Bosh and CV Smooth could not overcome this. The problem here is that if you lose close games to teams like Boston who you should be able to beat, how do you even stay in games against the Miami's and Indiana's?
-Chris Bosh - Bosh had his best game of the season in my opinion. He was his usual dominant self offensively making 8 of his 15 shots and was a rebounding force. He also played much better defensively then in previous games staying down, not going for fakes and rotating well to cover on weakside defense. You've got to feel for Bosh who has brought his game to another level over the past four or five games only to see losses in each one and his teammates fail to always bring that same level of play.
-Charlie Villanueva - With each game CV Smooth looks just that...smoother and smoother out there on the court. He may not be quite the MVP of this team yet, but his foul trouble and lack of play was one of the main reasons for the Raptors loss. When he was in the game with Bosh in the first half, the two terrorized the Boston bigs both defensively altering shots and on the offensive end with their rebounding and putbacks. CV Smooth's play is inspiring as well and when he starts crashing the boards, the team seems to follow suit. That's why it's inexplicable that Mitchell left him on the bench for as long as he did in the third quarter...the Raptors NEED Villanueva on the court as much as possible in order to have any chance to win. Boston coach Doc Rivers certainly took notice stating that the so called "experts" at ESPN should be lining up to apoligize to Villanueva concerning their now infamous draft day comments.
-Jalen Rose - On one hand Jalen didn't have the WORST game ever. He was very effective offensively in the first quarter and did a decent job defensively on Paul Pierce limiting the All-Star guard's scoring. Sam Mitchell also had he and Morris Peterson on a quick leash and did a great job in sending them to the bench when their play got too one dimensional early in the game. However this trend did not continue. Jalen was inexplicably left in the game for the majority of the third and fourth quarters and shot a hideous 5 for 17 overall. He scored only once after the first quarter and as usual, tried to do too much when Boston got close resulting in numerous turnovers and bad shots. As a fan watching the game this is especially excruciating. Mitchell is going to have to get more heavy handed with Jalen as his play in many of the Raptors' 9 losses has been completely detrimental to the team. Jalen the "post-up, draw double teams passing threat" from the first quarter - good...Jalen the "try and drive through 4 players, lose the ball, stand and stare at the ref for not calling a foul while his man scores at the other end" - bad.
There wasn't another player on the Raptors who played particularly bad. Mike James was quieter on offense, Jose Calderon not as effective as he could have been (he's been struggling with his shot) and Matt Bonner wasn't the offensive force he could have been but everyone played decently. Mo Peterson had his best game in over a week scoring 16 points, hitting 3 of 4 of his three point attempts and even made one of his signature circus shot layups. Even Rafael Araujo, though only getting 4 minutes of playing time, looked good during that time sealing his man and drawing a foul. And perhaps that's what makes this loss all the more frustrating; it's one thing to lose to a team when your players just don't bring it...but it's another when the other team just has more individually talented players on the court. And that's when it hits you smack in the face...right now, with Jalen Rose playing the way he is, the Raptors simply don't have the go-to talent to win close games like this. Sam Mitchell isn't giving up, but he knows that without an infusion of talent, this team is going to need full 48 minute stellar efforts every night in order to compete. Welcome to Toronto Rudy Gay...