A. Sherrod Blakely

Dismal second quarter costs Celtics vs Raptors

Dismal second quarter costs Celtics vs Raptors

TORONTO – At the end of the night, each quarter of an NBA game time-wise is supposed to be no greater than any other.

But we know better.

Boston’s 96-78 loss at Toronto was a game whose outcome was heavily influenced by one, 12-minute span – the second quarter – that absolutely engulfed whatever Boston did in the other three. 

Boston shot just 27.8 percent from the field in the second quarter on 5-for-18 shooting, with almost twice as many turnovers (9) in the second quarter as made baskets. 

“They were pushing us up and getting us from running our offense,” said Boston’s Marcus Morris. “They did take over the game that quarter and it seemed like they were so physical the refs gave them the benefit of the doubt with the whistle which is expected but they played well.”

Boston led 20-14 after the first, but the Raptors opened the second quarter with a 14-6 run to lead 28-26. And Toronto's dominance continued as they closed out the quarter with a 15-7 spurt to take a comfortable 43-33 lead into the half. 

The impact of Toronto’s second quarter surge was not lost on their head coach Dwane Casey. 

“It changed the game,” he said. “You’re looking for five guys that are going to compete and we did. It was a team effort; those guys came in and changed things but everybody had their contributions tonight at one point.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 96-78 loss at Toronto. 

 

STARS

DeMar DeRozan: This was not a good shooting night for DeRozan, but he still managed to make all the big shots when needed to help Toronto take control of the game and never relinquish it. He had 16 points on 6-for-17 shooting which included him knocking down three of his four 3-pointers.

Marcus Morris: I know, I know. His team lost. But that doesn’t diminish the way Morris delivered yet another impressive scoring performance, leading all players with 21 points on an efficient 7-for-14 shooting night.

STUDS

Delon Wright: The second quarter surge by Toronto involved a number of players, among them being Wright who led the Raptors in the second with six points. He would finish with a near double-double of eight points, nine rebounds and eight assists along with two steals and two blocked shots.

Greg Monroe: One of the more consistent bright spots for the Celtics, Greg Monroe was indeed a presence around the rim and on the glass as he tallied 17 points on 4-for-7 shooting to go with eight rebounds and three assists.

Fred VanVleet: One of the primary performers off Toronto’s bench, Fred VanVleet gave Boston major problems during his 24 minutes of court time. VanVleet had 15 points on 5-for-10 shooting while also dishing out four assists without a single turnover. 

DUDS

Terry Rozier: He has been playing at such a high level recently, it was only a matter of time before he had a bad game which was indeed what happened on Wednesday at Toronto. Rozier had just two points in 28 minutes, missing all but one of the nine shots he took. But the night wasn’t all bad for the third-year guard as he managed to haul in a game-high nine rebounds. 

Celtics turnovers: Boston’s sloppy ball-handling at times would prove to be one of the issues that they simply struggled with rectifying on Wednesday. They turned the ball over 17 times which led to 29 points for the Raptors – both numbers higher than the Celtics are accustomed to.

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Celtics-Raptors preview: Can C's keep closing the gap?

Celtics-Raptors preview: Can C's keep closing the gap?

TORONTO – Tuesday night losses by both Boston and Toronto took away the potential for tonight to be a winner-takes-over-the-East battle.

Nonetheless, its significance is still great.

The Celtics (53-24) come in trailing Toronto (55-22) by two games in the East with four to play after tonight.

Even if the Raptors are able to hold on to the top spot, a Celtics win tonight would be a major blow to Toronto and boost for Boston.

A Boston win would give the Celtics the head-to-head series three games to one, which would include a rare road win against Toronto team that has won at home like no other team in the East this season (31-7).

In addition, it would be the second win in less than a week for the injury-riddled Celtics over a Toronto team that at full strength.

And if the two were to meet in the playoffs, it wouldn't be until the Eastern Conference finals when Boston would likely have its top scorer (Kyrie Irving) and top defender (Marcus Smart) back in the lineup.

Combine their return with a more confident group of Boston role players and you have the makings of a Celtics team that would be well-positioned to continue the trend we’ve seen in the East where the No. 2 seed fares better than the top overall seed.

But for the Celtics, playoff seeding takes a back seat to the team’s health, which has been an issue all season.

The latest victim of the injury bug is Terry Rozier, who did not play in Boston’s 106-102 loss at Milwaukee on Tuesday because of a left ankle sprain.

Prior to the game, Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Rozier was about “80 to 85 percent” healthy but would not return to the floor until he closer to being fully healthy.

“We’re not playing him if he’s not better than that,” Stevens said. “Obviously with...our health situation being what it is, Terry’s gonna have a lot of minutes ahead. So we want him to feel great.”

And for Boston, feeling great is completely independent of winning tonight and potentially winding up with the best overall record in the East for the second year in a row.

Still, as important as good health is to this team going into the playoffs, Jaylen Brown is among the Celtics who isn’t ready to concede the top spot in the East to Toronto just yet.
 
“I feel like we’re the number one team,” Brown said recently. “The number one seed would be fitting, but we have to just come out and play basketball. There’s a lot of teams that think otherwise; Toronto is one of them.”

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Doctor: Procedure 'should completely fix' Kyrie's knee

Doctor: Procedure 'should completely fix' Kyrie's knee

TORONTO – It has been 11 days since Kyrie Irving underwent a “minimally invasive procedure” to address the soreness he was experiencing in his left knee.

Following the procedure on March 24, the Celtics revealed it involved the removal of a tension wire left from the surgery Irving had performed in 2015 when he suffered a left kneecap fracture in the 2015 NBA Finals.

“That’s a very good sign that that’s what the surgery was about,” said Dr. Chris Chihlas, an orthopedic specialist with Southcoast Health. “If it was just irritation to his patella tendon and he was having patella tendinitis, not kneecap trouble, then taking the wire out should completely fix that.”

Dr. Chihlas explained the purpose of the wire.

“So, when the kneecap breaks, think if you split a piece of wood and it splits in two pieces and you wrap a rope around it to keep the two pieces together,” Dr. Chihlas said. “So that wrap around...it just squeezes the fracture together like a lasso.”

He added, “the wire is put in there to be just for a temporary period of time to hold the pieces together while the body heals the fracture. So the body kind of glues them back together, like any fracture heals together. Then the wires are extra; you don’t need it anymore.”

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said the procedure Irving underwent should not have an adverse effect on his career going forward.

“When I say it shouldn’t affect his career, I’m saying his knee is very structurally sound,” Ainge told 98.5 the Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich show last week. “It isn’t like a long-term thing.”

Which is great news for the Celtics who, while not trying to rush Irving back too soon, are eager to get their leading scorer back on the floor with an anticipation that he won’t be ready to go at the start of the playoffs.

Stevens recently indicated that the guys currently playing are the ones that he’ll lean on to start the postseason.

“So, we’ll see when those guys are able to possibly get back on the court,” said Stevens, referring to Irving and Marcus Smart (right thumb). We’re focused on this group on the court, right now. This is the group that’s gonna have to do that.”

Irving, 26, has appeared in 60 games this season and averaged 24.4 points, 5.1 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game.

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