As the season winds down the Toronto Raptors have not looked like the perennial power house that has dominated during the majority of regular season. Case in point: despite DeMar DeRozan leading his team with 32 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists, Toronto could not hold on in the last few minutes against the Boston Celtics.
That the Raps fell 110-99 to Boston stings. That they lost to this Boston team, which has been plagued by numerous injuries (including to star Kyrie Irving, who recently underwent knee surgery) is disconcerting. Despite the Celtics’s disadvantages, Boston has managed to stay on the heels of the number one team in the Eastern conference. With the victory, their win streak has reached six games in a row.
“We can’t make excuses,” said Celtics guard Terry Rozier who poured in 21 points and seven assists, “But we go out there and fight with whoever we got and that’s what we did tonight.”
The Raptors managed to stay in the game until late in regulation. Unfortunately once there, the Celtics outscored Toronto 28-15 in the fourth quarter while forcing the Raps into seven of their 15 turnovers. Toronto has now dropped four of its last seven games and has Boston sitting two games behind them in a battle for the number one spot in the conference and home court advantage throughout the East playoffs.
“We want to win the Eastern Conference,” said DeRozan. “That’s our goal to fulfill that opportunity and we got to take advantage of it.”
But that opportunity is in danger of slipping away. Toronto has had a difficult time lately trying to get all of their ducks in a row. They’ve gone through defensive struggles, streaky shooting from different players, and now their bench has been outplayed a few times as of late. The Raptors second line only scored 20 while Boston’s tallied in 35. C.J. Miles, who had 20 points in the last Celtics match up, played his worst game since coming to Toronto, going 0-for-5 from behind the arc (0-for-6 in total) with four costly turnovers.
Miles also struggled in the defensive matchup against Marcus Morris, who came off the Celtics bench for a team-high 25 points, while adding nine rebounds and two blocks.
But even with Toronto’s recent pattern of poor game play, coach Dwane Casey still remains optimistic. “We know where better than that and we see the areas we have to get better in,” said Casey.
The next few games will pose as a challenge for the Raps. Four of their last six games will be against teams who could potentially be playoff match-ups. For their next two games Toronto will head back to Cleveland to face LeBron James and the Cavaliers on Tuesday night. And then, on the second night of a back-to-back, these same Celtics will be in Toronto.