Boston Celtics continue struggles in Toronto
The Boston Celtics have had a season based off of one thing, inconsistency. Boston started off the season more sluggish than anyone imagined. Even though people knew it may take a while to get all this talent comfortable playing with each other, nobody thought they just wouldn't be able to figure it out by mid February. Let's not forget, a lot of people in the sports world had the Celtics winning 55 or more games and entering the playoffs as the one seed in the Eastern Conference. They were certainly the preseason favorite, as their roster was looked at as good as any in the NBA, maybe not including Golden State.
There was so much excitement with Kyrie coming back, along with the integration of another former All-Star in Gordon Hayward, who had played about two minutes as a Celtic last season. While Hayward has clearly made strides and had some good moments and good games, he isn't back to what he used to be quite yet, but can we blame him? The guy is coming off one of the most gruesome injuries anyone watching basketball has ever seen. We knew he would take a lot of time to recover, and he hasn't been the Celtics biggest issue.
What the real issue may be can range from a combination of things: lack of effort, especially on the defensive side, selfishness, coaching, not coming together as a team, but inconsistency remains a big problem. The team will rattle off a few wins in a row and have good-to-great performances, like against the Philadelphia 76ers or against the Raptors in previous season match-ups. One thing remains a huge question mark as to how far the Celtics can go in the postseason, their ability to be consistent.
With recent horrible losses to both LA teams, and teams like the Chicago Bulls, who happen to be just in front of the Cavaliers and Knicks for worst record in the Eastern Conference, everyone expected their level of play to rise against one of the conferences best teams. Boston has been known for playing well against the better teams of the conference, having a recent loss to the top team, Milwaukee, by only one-point.
Celtics fans everywhere tonight were as disappointed as when Kendrick Perkins missed the final game in the finals against the Lakers in 2010 (because we all knew, if he was there, the C's could've been two-time champs in the big-three-era).
What we witnessed on the court was as big of a letdown since last season when it looked like maybe, just maybe, the Celtics looked like they were going to get past the King of the East for the last ten years in a game seven at home. This game looked great at the end of the first quarter. We, as fans, got exactly what we wanted, the Celtics were competitive, leading 32-20. The wheels soon fell off, and for this team, the dreaded second quarter arrived. The Raptors used a 16-0 run to propel themselves way ahead, while the Celtics scored only 13 points, the second lowest of any quarter this season.
Boston looked like they might have a little spark at the start of the second half as the ball movement looked great for a minute, but Toronto was on another level tonight. The Celtics never recovered from that big run the Raptors made, and eventually took the 118-95 loss. We usually point to the offensive issues the Celtics have when they struggle, and while those struggles continued tonight as the team only shot 38% from the field, including 6-30 (20%) from three-point range, it was their effort on the defensive side that really stood out. We saw miscommunications, poor rotations, shooters wide open, Kawhi Leonard and Pascal Siakam doing --quite literally-- whatever they wanted. We saw no resistance and no heart from this Celtics team, and while the the players might still say they believe nobody can beat them in a seven-game series, the Raptors may have proved one thing tonight, they aren't the same team from last year.
It remains to be seen how they do once they reach the playoffs, but with an absolute stud of a dude like Kawhi -- a former finals MVP who guarded LeBron that whole series-- and newly acquired Marc Gasol, along with a good coach in Nick Nurse to replace the coach of the year last year. That team could be scary in April and May. As far as the Celtics, they aren't scaring a single person right now. I still believe that this team could get things figured out and make a run in the playoffs, but they'll likely have to do so without having home court advantage at any time throughout.