Toronto Raptors

Toronto Raptors young guns impress in narrow loss to Boston Celtics

The Toronto Raptors fell just short against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden, going down 113-111 in a thriller, moving them to 1-2 in preseason play.

They had a chance to win it in the final seconds as Dalano Banton's 3-point attempt rimmed out, before he followed his own shot at the buzzer for the tie, however, the officials waved off the bucket which came after the siren.

Fred VanVleet led five players in double figures with 22 points, while OG Anunoby added 17, Gary Trent Jr. 14, Precious Achiuwa 13 and Svi Mykhaliuk 12.

Jayson Tatum paced the Celtics with a near-triple-double of 20 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. Al Horford chipped in 16 points and Romeo Langford impressed in the starting lineup with 13 points, going 3-of-4 from beyond the arc.

The Raptors continue their preseason action on Monday against the Houston Rockets, but before then, let's jump into some key takeaways from tonight's loss.

One big takeaway

Precious Achiuwa is going to be a major factor for the Raptors this season.

Sure, it's just preseason, but it's easy to see why Masai Ujiri wanted the Nigerian big man as part of the Kyle Lowry deal, with his energy on both ends of the floor making a strong case for him to start at center on opening night.

Despite his 6-foot-8 frame, Achiuwa is a monster on the glass, picking up four on the offensive end against Boston, finishing with 13 points, 13 rebounds, two assists, three steals and one block in 29 minutes of action.

With the Raptors assembling a cast of long, athletic players on the perimeter, Achiuwa at the five bodes as the key to unlocking their new-look lineup, flanked by their wings in OG Anunoby, Scottie Barnes, Gary Trent Jr. and Pascal Siakam once he returns from injury.

Through three preseason outings, Achiuwa is putting up 12.0 points, 9.2 rebounds, 2.7 steals and 1.0 blocks on 50 percent shooting (16-of-32) and 17 percent from three (1-of-6).

That last number is the one that will make the difference for the smaller lineups. If Achiuwa can develop a threatening shot from beyond the arc to create more space for their wings to attack the paint, the potential for the Raptors to become an effective switch-heavy, transition team is there.

The 22-year-old's game is still a work in progress, but the early signs show how damaging he can be as a small-ball five with his ability to run the floor, make plays in the paint and handle the ball on the fast break.

The Raptors hit a home run getting Achiuwa.

5 thoughts

  • OG Anunoby's ever-expanding bag! Entering his fifth season in the league, Anunoby is set for a much bigger role in 2021-22 and the development in his game continues to stand out. Offensively, his ability to create separation off the dribble and knock down shots both in the paint and beyond the arc adds a new dimension to his arsenal that is sure to excite Raptor fans.
  • Svi for three! The 6-foot-7 wing continues to add intrigue to the Raptors bench rotation, with another strong performance tonight. He recorded 12 points and four rebounds with his 3-point shooting sure to earn him some key minutes this season
  • Scottie Barnes the playmaker. The No.4 overall pick recorded a game-high eight assists tonight, expertly finding cutters in the paint as he facilitated things from the elbow. His fit on the wing has been seamless in preseason.
  • Fred VanVleet poured in 22 points on 6-of-8 from the 3-point line and with Barnes' running the offence for stretches, he was able to find space off the ball with some nice catch-and-shoot opportunities. The developing chemistry between the rookie and the vet is going to allow VanVleet to do what he does best. Get buckets.
  • Nick Nurse building habits early. Sure it's just preseason, but Nick Nurse had the Raptors competing for 48 minutes. From taking the game down to the wire, to starting the fourth quarter with a full-court press, the head coach has a clear vision for their style of play this season. "I like our length and athleticism and our hard play right now," he said. "I say when you come to watch us play you should see a group really going at it and trying to guard and defend and flying around and you should leave the game and say, 'Man, that was fun to watch.' And that's really all I'm asking for. See what happens from there."

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