The Raptors shouldn't need to scratch and claw to beat the 2013-2014 Boston Celtics. If this game had taken place between November and February, I would have turned my television off with a bitter taste in my mouth. Given the circumstances and the tension surrounding the playoff hunt, I'm taking this win in stride; it was ugly, but it did the job.
Toronto came out with much more energy than we've become accustomed to over the past couple of weeks. The Cleveland loss seemed to have awakened the team's sense of urgency. Jonas Valanciunas, in particular, was bullying the Celtics in the paint as the Raptors ran out to an early 31-22 lead.
When the bench checked into the game, we witnessed the all-too-familiar lull in team performance as the Celtics started eating into the Raptor lead. After a series of sloppy Toronto turnovers, the Celtics briefly took the lead. Dwane Casey relied on his starters to restore order once again, and the Raptors went into the break leading 55-46.
The second half was a test of mental fortitude that, quite frankly, didn't need to be so difficult. The Raptors did a great job of putting the clamps down on Boston's offence in the third quarter. However, the fourth quarter was the Jared Sullinger show. Toronto failed to make adjustments on the sophomore big, and he obliged by continually draining 3 pointers and drawing foul after foul. The lead got down to 3 with 2 minutes left, but with the help of Chuck Hayes and Kyle Lowry, the Raptors saw this one out 99-90.
- Jonas Valanciunas: After a pretty poor performance against Cleveland, JV bounced back nicely tonight. He flashed his midrange game, and took it to the Celtic bigs all night. 15 points, 14 rebounds and even 3 assists to boot. The Raptors were much better with him on the floor.
- Terrence Ross: Terrence Ross oozes potential. We saw his entire arsenal on show tonight. He had a beautiful buzzer beating 3 pointer, hit his open looks as usual, and even showed some nice touch off the bounce. Ross's trajectory over the next couple of years will be interesting to follow. 24 points on 9-16 shooting, with 5 three pointers.
- Kyle Lowry: I feel like I can copy-paste everything anyone's ever written about Lowry into this paragraph. Tough as nails, and hit key buckets when the offence stagnated. 23 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists.
- The Bench: Let's leave Chuck Hayes out of this, because he was solid tonight. The rest of the bench, wow, cesspool of mediocrity. Simply put, you can't be outscored by the Boston bench by ~40 points.