The Toronto Raptors visit the Boston Celtics winning seven out of their last eight games. The Celtics, without star point guard Isaiah Thomas for the second consecutive game due to a groin injury, are seeking major contributions from Al Horford and Avery Bradley. Marcus Smart slides in at the starting point guard spot opposite All-Star Kyle Lowry who is one of the league’s top defenders at the position.
THE GAME FLOW
It was clear out the gate who Brad Stevens wanted the ball to run through without his star point guard. Horford and Bradley combined to score the team’s first eight points, including two threes from Big Al. Not to mention the rest of the team went to go 4-5 from deep that quarter. But the real story of the first quarter was the bench play.
Olynyk and his groovy hair compiled one hell of a stat line, finishing the half with five points, seven rebounds, three assists, two steals, and a very controversial block off the glass. The Canadian even had a, dare I say, Harden-esque euro-step and finished the play with a powerful and-one as a part of Boston’s 13-0 run in the quarter. Brown had his time to shine going 3-4 from the field. The rookie showed great promise knocking down a confident-looking open three and was even able to wow the crowd with a sick crossover before nailing a mid-range jumper. He was an energizer-bunny going up and down the court setting up the transition game for the C’s and finished the half with a +8 +/-. Boston leads after the first quarter, 28-25.
But of course, Lowry and those killer fall away shots is what got Toronto as close as eight until Brad Stevens called a timeout to get his team back on track. Executed to perfection coming out the timeout, Bradley continued his hot night shooting with a three off the screen to stop the Toronto comeback. Thanks to the balanced scoring effort by Boston and holding the red-hot Raptors to a season-low 17 points in the quarter, “Gang Green” leads at halftime 50-42.
Toronto came out swinging with a quick floater in the lane by DeMar DeRozan. The Raptors looked to go DeRozan’s way after an awful first half shooting 5-13. Most of which was thanks to AB’s stellar defense. For the Celtics though, Marcus Smart got the offense clicking after knocking down an open three and attacked the paint to dish it to AB for a wide-open three the following possession. As we’ve seen this season though, the guys in green have their ups and downs on the offensive end. It was turnover after turnover and Toronto feasted on those opportunities to get back in the game. Lowry was unconscious in the third as he hit two tough threes. One of which he was fouled by Olynyk to add to his 11 points in the quarter. He also swiped his way to three steals to contribute to the 14 turnovers forced by the Raptors. Lowry finished with 27 points through three quarters to get Toronto the lead 75-68 through three quarters.
The two teams crank it up this time of the game as Boston and Toronto are ranked first and second respectively in fourth quarter points scored in the league. It did not go as planned for Brad Stevens and co. though as forward Norman Powell decided to go on a one man 7-0 scoring spree for Toronto to stretch their lead to 83-73.
What the remainder of the fourth quarter came down to was fundamentals. The Celtics simply couldn’t execute the little things when it comes to the game. The team took low-percentage shots late in the shot clock, committed careless turnovers, and they refused to box out on defense. After cutting the deficit to four, raising the hopes of all Celtic fans, Al Horford shot down those aspirations by fouling Lowry on a isolated three. Despite a last effort and-one to avenge Horford’s knuckle-headed move, Toronto held on to win 101-94.
Big Al’s big mistake in a four point game fouling Kyle Lowry on the three pointer with :30.6 seconds remaining.
Your Daily Awesome Isaiah Thomas Thing: Hey it may not be IT, but this is some crafty work by Kelly.
Al Horford: 19 points on 5-13 shooting 38% – 7 rebounds – 6 assists – 1 steal-1 block
Kyle Lowry: 34 points on 9-18 shooting 50% – 7 rebounds – 2 assists – 3 steals