January 17th, 2021

Raptors blow another lead as Celtics add to Toronto’s early-season misery

By The Canadian Press on January 4, 2021.

TAMPA, Fla. – Jayson Tatum scored 40 points as the Boston Celtics piled on the Raptors’ early-season misery, rallying from a first-half deficit to defeat Toronto 126-114 Monday.

The Raptors (1-5) got off to a hot start with signs that Pascal Siakam might be emerging from his early-season funk. But it turned into merely another blown double-digit lead.

A late 11-0 Raptors run cut Boston’s lead, once as high as 26 points, to 10 points with less than three minutes remaining, prompting the Celtics to reinsert some of their starters.

Tatum was one off his career high of 41 when he went to the bench early in the fourth. Payton Pritchard, a rookie from Oregon, had 23 points and eight assists off the bench while Jaylen Brown added 19 for Boston (5-3).

Fred VanVleet led the Raptors with 35 points, one off his career high. Siakam finished with 22 while Kyle Lowry added 18.

Going into play Monday, only the Detroit Pistons (1-5) had a worse record than Toronto.

Toronto’s 13-point lead with a little more than four minutes remaining in the first quarter turned into a 15-point deficit at the half as Boston outscored the Raptors 38-14 in the second quarter for a 61-46 edge.

Tatum led the way with 21 points in a second quarter that saw Toronto make just 5-of-24 shots while missing all six three-point attempts. Boston’s bench outscored the Raptors reserves 23-6 in the first half.

The Celtics led by as many as 23 in the third and were up 100-81 going into the fourth.

It was the first meeting between the two since Sept. 11 when the Celtics defeated Toronto 92-87, eliminating the Raptors in Game 7 of their Easter Conference semifinal. Monday also represented Toronto’s third regular-season game at Amalie Arena, the Raptors’ home away from home during the pandemic.

Boston was missing two key players in the injured Kemba Walker (knee) and Marcus Smart (thumb).

Prior to the game, Toronto coach Nick Nurse offered some optimism despite his team’s poor start.

“I’m going round and round on this record saying we’ve played some really good basketball and don’t have anything to show for it hardly at all,” he told reporters.

“As well as we have played, we’ve made enough mistakes or haven’t made enough shots or something to find our way to the other side of the (win-loss) column,” he added. “So we’ve got to clean those things up and play better.”

Nurse did point the finger at his team’s defence and rebounding, saying both had to improve.

The Celtics, who edged the Pistons on Sunday on a late Tatum basket to complete a split of their two-game series in Detroit, have now won four of their last five games. Toronto was coming off a 120-116 loss in New Orleans on Saturday.

Boston was also without Jeff Teague (ankle), Romeo Langford (wrist) and Javonte Green (health and safety protocols).

Hitting five of their first six three-point attempts, including two by Siakam, the Raptors built an early 17-5 advantage and led by as many as 13 before ending the quarter up 32-23.

Boston scored the first bucket and then fell behind as Toronto made 7-of-14 three-pointers in the first quarter and had 11 free-throw attempts, albeit missing six. VanVleet sank four of those three-pointers in his 14-point opening quarter.

Toronto went cold and Boston tied it at 36-36 on a 10-0 run, with the Celtics continuing to pull ahead. And the Raptors ship continued to tip in the second half.

Siakam showed his skills with a one-handed dunk midway through the third quarter.

Siakam, who fouled out of his last two appearances, came into the contest averaging 16.5 points a game on 39.4 percent shooting. He averaged 22.9 points a game last season on 45.3 percent shooting.

Toronto’s worst start to the season was an 0-9 run in 2005-06, a campaign that saw Chris Paul named rookie of the year and Canada’s Steve Nash crowned MVP. The Raptors ended the season 12th in the East at 27-55.

NOTES: Toronto plays next at Phoenix on Wednesday, the first leg of a four-game road trip that also includes stops in Sacramento, Golden State and Portland “¦ With 3,740 fans on hand at Amalie Arena, Monday’s game was the first for Boston in front of spectators since March 10.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 4, 2021

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