Game 58 of the season had lots of hype going in to the fourth contest between the two teams. While Toronto had the edge 2-1 going in, the Celtics won the last meeting, which supplanted them in second place in the division, overtaking the Atlantic Division from the Raptors. All-star Kyle Lowry sat out the game with a sore wrist, looking to give Boston a chance to further separate themselves in not only the division but conference. Moreover, there was a lot of angst upon the aftermath of the trade deadline where Danny Ainge and the Celtics stood pat and Raptors acquired Serge Ibaka and P.J Tucker from the Orlando Magic and Phoenix Suns respectively. How did it all play out?
The Celtics asserted themselves early with good defense and ball movement. Jaylen Brown played both sides of the ball well, defending DeMar Rozen admirably early, while showcasing his own offensive skills, helping the C's jump out to an early 11-point lead at the end of the first quarter, due also in part to their defensive intensity, 29-18. The intensity continued between the two teams into the second quarter where technical fouls were called on Jae Crowder, Isaiah Thomas and DeMarre Carroll, who also picked up a flagrant for shoving Thomas to the floor intentionally.
The Celtics would swap baskets the rest of the way and go into the half up by ten, 55-45. The third quarter started to turn after Thomas was whistled for a flagrant, for swiping at Rozen, going for the ball (It's getting harder and harder to know what a Flagrant is) and then with the Raptors going on a run by a series of buckets made by Serge Ibaka, DeMar Rozen and company, outscoring the Celtics, 29-22 cutting the C's lead to 3. The only team this year to play more meaningful fourth quarter basketball than the Celtics this year, are the Utah Jazz and Toronto Raptors. Where we have come to expect the King of the Fourth to be our own Isaiah Thomas, it went to DeMar Rozen who had a career high with 43-points.
Ultimately, the loss came down to the Celtics not executing in the fourth down the stretch, missing shots at the charity stripe and not being able to get the stops or rebounds when they needed it most. P.J. Tucker, who was on the Celtics radar during the NBA trade deadline, provided just that in the final possessions and 10-total rebounds for the game, thwarting good offensive games from Marcus Smart and Jae Crowder, who scored 19 a piece, to help lessen the burden on Thomas.
Although, one game does not make, the Celtics need to find a way to defend the interior to make a run during their upcoming schedule, which continues in Detroit tonight.