The Boston Celtics could not tighten the gap for first place in the Eastern Conference Wednesday night.
First half turnovers for the C’s and a strong Toronto Raptors defense kept Boston from accomplishing that feat as the Celtics suffered a 96-78 loss at the Air Canada Centre.
The Celtics were led by Marcus Morris, who had a team-high 21 points and collected five rebounds, and was one of three players to put up double digits. Aside from the first quarter, Toronto dominated the rest of the game while capitalizing on Boston’s turnovers.
With the loss, Boston drops to 53-25, while Toronto improves to 56-22.
Here’s how it all went down:
PG: Terry Rozier
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Al Horford
C: Aron Baynes
STRONG OPENING QUARTER
The first quarter featured seven lead changes with the Celtics holding on to a 20-14 lead after it ended. This was Toronto’s lowest-scoring first of the season as the team only shot 26.1 percent from field goal range. Jaylen Brown and Greg Monroe each had five points, while Marcus Morris was right behind them with four, which helped contribute to the C’s shooting 42.1 percent from the field. Despite being down six points at the end of the first, the Raptors only committed one turnover.
Boston let the Raptors take the lead and run away with it heading into halftime as they trailed 43-33. Monroe continued to put up buckets for Boston, scoring four of the team’s 13 second quarter points. The C’s were 0-for-6 from downtown in the second, but it was the turnovers that cost them as the Raptors capitalized on Boston’s errors, scoring 17 points on nine turnovers. The second was heavily dominated by Toronto as the team went on a 20-3 run to take a 10-point lead into the locker room at halftime. The Raptors heavily guarded Jayson Tatum and were consistent in attacking the passing lanes.
TROUBLE IN THE THIRD
Toronto led the entire quarter and held the Celtics to just 53 points after three with help from their dynamic duo of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry after only combining for 15 points in the first half. after failing to find the basket for must of the third. Boston struggled to find the basket, so much in fact that head coach Brad Stevens put the newest member of the squad, Xavier Silas, on the floor to see if he could help spark some offensive production, but missed his first three attempted shots. Despite being outplayed, Boston kept the game in reach and went on a 7-1 run in the final 1:06 of the quarter and held Toronto to just 67 points while trailing by 14 heading into the final 12 minutes.
NO COMEBACK THIS TIME
As fans have seen so many times during the season in the fourth quarter, the Celtics just couldn’t make a dramatic comeback. Boston simply couldn’t keep up with the Raptors and with a heavily-guarded Tatum and a missing Kyrie Irving, Boston failed to find their groove. The game got away from the C’s and there would be no magical ending as their deficit became too great. A lack of offense, defense and a number of turnovers contributed to Boston’s second-consecutive loss.
PLAY OF THE GAME
Monroe drives the ball to the net past Lucas Nogueira for the two points.
The Celtics are back in action Friday night when they host the Chicago Bulls. Tip-off from TD Garden is slated for 7:30 p.m. ET.