The struggles continue for the Toronto Raptors.
Fred VanVleet had it rolling with 35 points, but it wasn't enough to overcome a balanced effort from the Boston Celtics that saw Jayson Tatum score a season-high 40 points and Payton Pritchard (23), Jaylen Brown (19), Grant Williams (14), Semi Ojeleye (12) and Robert Williams III (11) each score in double figures.
With the loss, the Raptors fall to 1-5 on the season, tying them with the Detroit Pistons for the worst record in the Eastern Conference.
For more on the game, here are some quick thoughts...
1. Next man up
In addition to Kemba Walker (knee), the Celtics were without Marcus Smart (thumb) and Jeff Teague (ankle) against the Raptors. Tremont Waters started for the Celtics at point guard with the three of them sidelined.
The good news for the Celtics? Brad Stevens said before the game that Smart had a scan on his thumb and that it "didn't look too bad." Also, Teague is listed as day-to-day.
The Celtics can only hope that'll mean they're both back in the lineup sooner rather than later.
2. Model of consistency
With 9:06 remaining in the first quarter, VanVleet made a 3-pointer to extend Toronto's early lead to 11-2. It marked the 38th straight regular season game in which VanVleet has made at least one 3-pointer, tying him with C.J. Miles for the longest streak in franchise history, per Stathead.
The last time VanVleet failed to make a 3-pointer was Dec. 8, 2019.
VanVleet had the hot hand early against the Celtics, making four 3-pointers en route to 14 points in the first quarter.
3. Not on Chris Boucher's watch
One of my favourite stats from last season: Chris Boucher blocked a total of 12 3-pointers, tying him with Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis for sixth-most in the league despite logging only 13.2 minutes per game.
Boucher picked up his third blocked 3-pointer of this season early against the Celtics, swatting a corner 3 from Williams out of bounds.
NAAAAAAAAAAAAAAW pic.twitter.com/JpcQ3J98xH- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) January 5, 2021
4. A game of runs
The Raptors blew a double digit lead ... again.
The Raptors came out of the gates strong against the Celtics, building a 13-point lead five minutes into the game. It was a struggle from that point forward, with the Celtics turning a 13-point deficit into a 15-point lead by halftime.
Tatum led the charge for the Celtics with 26 points at the half. He shot 6-for-11 from the field, 4-for-5 from 3-point range and a perfect 10-for-10 from the free throw line.
Tatum scored 21 of his 26 points in the second quarter, fueling a game-changing Celtics run.
Jayson Tatum drops 21 of his 26 1st half PTS in the 2nd Q! @celtics 61@Raptors 46- NBA (@NBA) January 5, 2021
Watch Tatum's 2nd half on NBA LP pic.twitter.com/mVWEQlA7PR
It wasn't all Tatum, though. The Celtics also got a boost off the bench from Pritchard in the first half. The No. 26 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft was Boston's only other player in double figures through two quarters of play with 11 points.
Pritchard made one 3-pointer and had a couple of impressive drives, one of which came against Pascal Siakam on a switch.
Pritchard with the drive 🏀 pic.twitter.com/mDvolxJKjy- Boston Celtics (@celtics) January 5, 2021
As for the Raptors, they went ice cold in the second quarter, scoring 14 points on 5-for-24 shooting from the field and 0-for-6 from 3-point range in the frame. They weren't able to get to the free throw line much either, going from attempting 11 free throws in the first quarter to four in the second quarter.
It was ugly.
5. Live by the 3, die by the 3
An interesting stat unearthed by ESPN's Bobby Marks before the game: Toronto entered Monday's contest generating 44.3 of its points on the season from the 3-point line, the most in the league.
That's not a problem when the 3s are falling, but the Raptors haven't exactly been shooting the lights to start the season. 3-point shooting was once again a problem in this one.
The Raptors started the game 6-for-7 from 3-point range...
Bare trey's thus far pic.twitter.com/eg4SWvaLp0- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) January 5, 2021
...but went 7-for-30 the rest of the way.
The Raptors need to figure out something else they can go to when their 3s aren't falling.
6. The centre rotation is still a work in progress
Aron Baynes started the game at centre for the Raptors but went scoreless in 13 minutes of play, missing all five of his shot attempts. Raptors head coach Nick Nurse decided to roll with Alex Len to start the season half. While he gave the Raptors some positive minutes, Len also went scoreless, missing his only shot attempt.
Together, Baynes and Len combined for zero points, six rebounds and one assist in 21 minutes. Boucher wasn't much better, finishing with nine points, six rebounds and two blocks in 20 minutes.
That's ... not going to cut it.
7. A quiet bench
Something else that's not going to cut it? Little-to-no bench production.
The Raptors entered Monday's game with the fourth-lowest scoring bench in the league. They once again got little production from their second unit.
Terence Davis was Toronto's leading scorer off the bench with 13 points, all of which came once the Celtics had already built a big lead. Norman Powell struggled again, this time with four points on 1-for-6 shooting from the field, while Boucher was quiet and Malachi Flynn missed all six of his field goal attempts.
To rub salt in the wound, the Celtics got 60 points from their second unit. It was much-needed with Smart and Teague out, not to mention them being on the second night of a back-to-back.
Pritched stole the show with 23 points and eight assists, but Williams had an 11-point, 15-rebound double-double and Williams chipped in with 14 points and a game-high three blocks.
that's how Rob is coming tonight 🔨 pic.twitter.com/Wl4jIoj2Ku- Boston Celtics (@celtics) January 5, 2021
8. What's next
The Raptors are back in action on Wednesday when they take on the new-look Phoenix Suns, who are off to a 5-2 start this season, tying them with the LA Clippers for the best record in the Western Conference.
It'll be another good test for this Raptors team. Catch you then.
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