Celtics

Stars, studs and duds: Final six minutes 'crushed' Celtics vs. Raptors

Stars, studs and duds: Final six minutes 'crushed' Celtics vs. Raptors

No matter where Isaiah Thomas sprinted to on the floor, there was seemingly one or two defenders with him, awaiting him or on his heels.

The Toronto Raptors did all they could to take away as much of Thomas’ airspace as possible.

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And he still managed to score 27 points and dish out seven assists.

Thomas got solid contributions from his teammates offensively.

But their defense more than anything else, was to blame for Tuesday’s 114-108 loss to the Toronto Raptors.

“We didn’t make plays,” Thomas told reporters after the game. “We didn’t make shots on the offensive end. And on top of that we didn’t get stops. They got into a rhythm. They scored at will the last part of six minutes.”

Celtics coach Brad Stevens echoed similar sentiments:

“The last six minutes of the third quarter crushed us and the last six minutes of the fourth,” Stevens told reporters after the game. “It was like 42-15 in those time frames.”

Despite the loss, Stevens said he took more positives away from the loss than negatives.

Al Horford believes in the long run, the Celtics will benefit from having gone through a game like this.

“This is a good learning experience for our team,” Horford told reporters. “We’ll grow from this. We really had this game in control and just let it get away.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Tuesday’s game.

STARS

DeMar DeRozan: He was a man among boys in the second half which is when he scored 31 of his game-high 41 points.

Isaiah Thomas: Thomas did a nice job of balancing his scoring with getting others involved, scoring a team-high 27 points with seven assists which was also a team high for Boston.

Kyle Lowry: Extremely efficient with the ball, Lowry had 24 points on 7-for-12 shooting with nine assists, four rebounds and two steals.

STUDS

Marcus Smart: It was a solid night for Smart who is still filling in for Avery Bradley (Achilles injury). Smart had 16 points on 6-for-11 shooting with four rebounds and five assists with four steals and a blocked shot.

Jonas Valanciunas: Boston had no answer for how to keep him off the boards, as he finished with a double-double of 18 points and 23 rebounds with two blocked shots.

Al Horford: It was yet another stat-stuffing night for Horford. He had 14 points on 5-for-11 shooting, to go with nine rebounds and four assists.

DUDS

Patrick Patterson: He’s usually a wild card that winds up hurting the Celtics, but not so on Tuesday night. He was scoreless for the Raptors in 21 minutes, missing all three of his field goal attempts while racking up four personal fouls.

NBA trade rumors: Lakers holding best assets for Anthony Davis deal?

NBA trade rumors: Lakers holding best assets for Anthony Davis deal?

The Los Angeles Lakers have yet to find a second superstar to pair with LeBron James, but they at least have an idea of which player they'd like to fill that role in the future.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski dropped an interest nugget about the Lakers' pursuit of New Orleans Pelicans center Anthony Davis during a recent segment with colleague Zach Lowe.

“Here’s the line [the Lakers] have to walk: they’re not going to give away picks and their top young players in some deal that makes them incrementally better this season because they have got to save all those assets for Anthony Davis, a big trade this summer either pre or post free agency," Wojnarowski said. "That's why they looked at players like Trevor Ariza, guys on one-year deals who don't have money going forward. ..."

Wojnarowski later added: "The absolute dream scenario, people talk about (how) they can trade for Anthony Davis or sign a free agent. The dream scenario is they do both.”

Davis likely is going to be a trade target for several teams, and the Boston Celtics are one team that's been linked to the superstar center in many trade rumors in recent years. Even Celtics fans were doing their best to recruit AD to Boston by giving him a rousing ovation during the starting lineup introductions when the Pelicans came to TD Garden last week. 

Davis can be an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2020 if he declines his 2020-21 player option, but the Pelicans can offer him a super-max contract extension next July. If he declines that extension, the Pelicans will have no choice but to trade him, and that's when the real fun will begin.

At this point, though, the Lakers and Celtics probably are the teams best positioned to trade for Davis. The Lakers have young, talented players such as Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma to offer New Orleans, while Boston can dangle Terry Rozier, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown and maybe Jayson Tatum. The C's also could have as many as four 2019 first-round draft picks to pitch. 

The Celtics vs. Lakers rivarly has been fierce on the court, but the next battle might come off the floor if/when Davis becomes available for trade.

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Three under-the-radar areas the Celtics will look to improve upon

Three under-the-radar areas the Celtics will look to improve upon

BOSTON -- Win or lose, the Boston Celtics don’t spend a ton of time dwelling on the past. 

Being an on-to-the-next-game kind of team serves them well right now after their 113-104 loss at Detroit, which snapped their eight-game winning streak. 

So in the spirit of looking ahead, here’s a look at three areas the Celtics will try and shore up between now and their next game which is at home against the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday.

Contesting shots

The Celtics don’t get a ton of blocked shots but consistently rank among the league’s best defensive teams. Why? Because they contest the hell out of shooters, from the perimeter as well as within the paint. This was one of the more glaring areas Boston had more problems in than usual. Against the Pistons, the Celtics contested just 50 of Detroit’s 80 shots from the field, or 62.5 percent. To put that in perspective, during Boston’s winning streak, six of their eight wins involved them having a contested shot percentage better than 73 percent, with the lowest contested shot percentage being .632 against New Orleans on Dec. 10.

Passing game

During their eight-game winning streak, Boston’s passing game was among the best in the NBA.  During the eight-game streak, Boston averaged a 322.1 passes per game which ranked fourth in the league. But the ball didn’t swing around nearly as much against the Pistons. The Celtics had 280 passes against Detroit according to NBA.com/stats, which is more along the lines of their season average (292.7) which ranks 15th in the NBA.

Catch-And-Shoot

This has been one of the bread-and-butter categories for this revived Celtics offense. During the eight-game winning streak, Boston averaged a league-best 39.5 points on catch-and-shoots in addition to 12 made 3’s per game which was also tops in the NBA. Saturday’s loss saw a noticeable drop in this category with the Celtics mustering just 18 points on catch-and-shoots.

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