The Toronto Raptors blew a chance on Wednesday to guarantee themselves a .500 record this season by dropping a lacklustre affair to a Boston Celtics team missing three starters. It was typical of Toronto’s season, to underwhelm and fail to take advantage of a shorthanded team and grab a win on the road.
They’ll have the chance to do it again tonight, although the Celtics look to be much closer to full strength, making the challenge that much tougher.
Where to Watch:
Sportsnet, 7:30pm EST
Toronto: Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, Scottie Barnes, O.G. Anunoby, Jakob Poeltl
Boston: Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Al Horford, Grant Williams, Derrick White
Toronto: Otto Porter Jr. (foot – out)
Boston: Marcus Smart (neck – questionable), Payton Pritchard (heel – questionable), Danilo Gallinaru (knee – out), Malcolm Brogdon (back – questionable), Derrick White (ankle – questionable)
All but locked in
WIth Wednesday’s loss and the Atlanta Hawks’ win over the Washington Wizards, the Raptors fell one game ack of the Hawks in the “race” for the 8th seed. As the Hawks hold the tie-breaker, that means the Raptors need to win both of their final two games (they play the Milwaukee Bucks Sunday) and the Hawks need to lose both of theirs (the Hawks play the Philadelphia 76ers tonight and the Celtics Sunday. If the Hawks win tonight (and the Sixers are locked into their seed, plus they’re on the second night of a back-to-back) and/or the Raptors lose, the Raptors will be locked into ninth.
That means the Raptors will play the Chicago Bulls, who are locked into 10th, on Wednesday night. (The Bulls and Raptors could still end up with the same 40-42 record, but the Raptors won the season series 2-1 and own the tiebreaker.)
What’s most interesting about this scenario is that should the Raptors play, and beat, the Bulls, and should the Hawks defeat the 7th-seeded Miami Heat in the 7-8 matchup... that means the Raptors would have to go through both DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry in the play-in to make the playoffs. Wouldn’t that be something?
Other than a lacklustre second quarter on Wednesday, the Raptors played generally solid defense against the Celtics; they held the team to 42% shooting and only 97 points (it was Toronto’s first loss this season when holding an opponent under 100 points). But once again it was a three-point shooting differential that did the Raptors in; the Raps only made 6 threes to the Celtics’ 11. Allowing Malcolm Brogdon and Mike Muscala to combine for 7-for-11 shooting from downtown, while Fred VanVleet was bricking his way to a 1-for-12 night, was a death knell.
And tonight, if Jayston Tatum and Al Horford are back for the Celtics, it’s only going to get that much tougher; the Celtics make the second-most threes in the league and shoot the 7th-best percentage.
The Raptors likely won’t be able to keep pace, but they can’t be completely out need more from VanVleet, Anunoby and Gary Trent tonight if they’re to have a chance.
O.G. All D?
Early in the season O.G. Anunoby was making a solid Defensive Player of the Year case. That’s fallen off — his play hasn’t fully sustained, and the Raptors have been aggressive mediocre. But could an All-Defensive team spot still be there?
Anunoby leads the league in steals, and despite playing just 66 games, he also leads the league in total steals. He's second in the league in deflections. Raps PR tells us that Anunoby’s 50 blocks on the year means that he’s the first Raptor since 2001 (Vince Carter) to notch 100 steals and 50 blocks in a season. He can guard the opposing team’s best player, regardless of what position that player plays, from 1 through 5.
So will voters notice? I sure hope so. It’s already a crime that Anunoby hasn’t made All-Defense yet in his career, and this is probably his best defensive season, so despite Toronto’s middling record, Anunoby deserves a spot on the team.