Previewreview: Raptors 86, Celtics 74


Previewreview: Raptors 86, Celtics 74

TORONTO "Awful. We were awful."

Yes, those were the words of Doc Rivers.

But after the Celtics' last two performances, you would be hard-pressed to know which game he was speaking about.

Many of the problems that plagued Boston against the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night were once again major issues for the C's on Friday. And the result was a second straight loss, this time to the lowly Toronto Raptors, 86-74.

Poor execution, untimely turnovers and a slew of late-reacting rotations all weighed in on the loss.

But as we identified prior to the game, there were other factors came into play.

Here's a look at how those issues played out.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: The Celtics' ball movement has actually been pretty good all season. More than 65 percent of their made baskets come via an assist, which is tops in the NBA. In the loss to the Lakers, 22 of their 38 made baskets, or 57.9 percent, came by way of an assist. When you talk about ball movement and assists with the Celtics, Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce are the keys. Injuries have limited them to playing in just 14 games together this season, with Boston going 8-6 with them both in the lineup. In those eight wins, they combine to average 16.9 assists. In the six losses, that number drops to 12.3.
WHAT WE SAW: Ball movement and overall execution on Friday were about as bad as we've seen with this core group. The entire team had a hand in the problems, obviously. But Pierce and Rondo are the two main cogs who can make the C's passing game hum along smoothly, or come to screeching halt. The latter was in effect on Friday, as they combined for just 12 assists - their combined assists average in the seven games both have played in that resulted in a Celtics loss.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Paul Pierce vs. DeMar DeRozan: The two best scorers for their respective teams, this is a matchup Pierce should win all day. But the thing about DeRozan is he, like a lot of young players, plays better at home. On the road, he averages 14 points per game. At home, that number jumps to 16.2. The biggest factor? He shoots the ball better. On the road, he connects on 36.5 percent of his shots. At home, he shoots 43 percent.
WHAT WE SAW: Toronto went with a bigger lineup because of injuries, so this matchup never materialized as expected. Still, DeRozan came out overly aggressive offensively, which worked out well for him and the Raptors. He led all scorers with 21 points on 7-for-13 shooting. As for Pierce, he had an atypical performance in finishing with 12 points on 4-for-11 shooting.

PLAYER TO WATCH: We all know Kevin Garnett shot the ball poorly Thursday night against the Los Angeles Lakers, and research afterward showed that it was historically bad by KG standards. In going 6-for-23 from the field, KG missed his last nine shots - the first time he missed that many consecutive shots as a member of the Boston Celtics. In addition, it was only the second time in his NBA career (at Cleveland, Jan. 29, 2002, then with Minnesota) that he missed his final nine shots of a game. Look for the C's to try and establish him down on the post early, just to get him into a better rhythm shooting the ball.
WHAT WE SAW: It's a shame that Garnett's really strong game offensively (17 points on 6-for-9 shooting, along with eight rebounds) goes to waste. While the numbers were certainly good to see, Garnett - like most of the Celtics - had far too few moments in which their shots or defensive stops, could propel the team to victory.

STAT TO TRACK: The Celtics have been one of the NBA's worst teams at getting to the free-throw line, which is another indictment of how they have a team that relies heavily - arguably, too heavily - on jump shots. Boston averages 19.6 free-throw attempts per game, which ranks 27th in the NBA. They don't necessarily have to get more attempts than that to beat Toronto, but another five free-throw-attempt night, like the one we saw against the Lakers, will make for yet another game in which the Celtics made harder than it needed to be.
WHAT WE SAW: Free-throw shooting wasn't nearly as big an issue on Friday as it was in the loss to the Lakers on Thursday night. Boston was 13-for-18 from the line, which isn't too far off what it usually averages in terms of free-throw attempts (19.6) or free throws made (15.1).

Agent doesn't expect Gordon Hayward to return this season, but foresees full recovery


Agent doesn't expect Gordon Hayward to return this season, but foresees full recovery

PHILADELPHIA --  Only hours removed from surgery to repair a dislocated left ankle and fractured fibia injury, Gordon Hayward’s agent tells NBC Sports Boston that his client is already attacking the rehab process.
“We expect him to have a full recovery,” agent Mark Bartelstein said via phone Thursday.
That said, Bartelstein also noted that it’s unlikely that the 6-foot-8 forward will return to action this season.
“We don’t have a timetable or anything like that for him,” Bartelstein said. “It’s about getting better, healthier every day.”
The Celtics released a statement Thursday afternoon indicating Hayward underwent successful “bony and ligamentous stabilization surgery for the fracture dislocation of his left ankle.”
Performing the surgery was Drs. Mark Slovenkai and Brian McKeon at New England Baptist Hospital, with Dr. Anthony Schena assisting followed by consultations with Dr. David Porter of Methodist Sports Medicine in Indianapolis.
Hayward suffered the injury in the first quarter of Boston’s 102-99 loss at Cleveland on Tuesday when he was attempting to catch a lob pass from Kyrie Irving.
On the play, Hayward landed awkwardly on his ankle, which contorted in a way where it was clear immediately that he would be out of action for a significant amount of time.
Since the injury, Hayward has received an amazing amount of outpouring of well-wishes and prayers from Kobe Bryant, Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski and a cast of other current and former athletes. Both Edelman and Gronkowski know all too well about the challenges associated with returning to play after an injury.
"Go into rehab just like you go into anything else: dominate it," Gronkowski said. "Come back when you feel ready. Come back when you’re 100 percent. He wouldn’t be where he is now if he wasn’t a hard worker.”
And then there are the Celtics fans, whose support has been impressive.
Hayward delivered a pre-recorded message to the fans at the TD Garden that was aired on the Jumbotron high above half court prior to Wednesday night’s game against Milwaukee. Even after the video ended, there was no escaping Hayward’s presence was still very much in the building and on the minds of fans.
At one point in the 108-100 Celtics loss on Wednesday, Boston fans began a “Gor-don Hay-ward!” chant that soon swept its way throughout the TD Garden.
“It has been a bit overwhelming the amount of support that Gordon has received,” Bartelstein said. “It touched him in so many ways. The outpouring he got, certainly all the fans in the arena last night, from players around the league … it meant the world to him. And obviously, going through something like this, it’s devastating. So, to see so many reach out to him, it means the world to him and his family; there’s no doubt about it.”