TORONTO When you look at the numbers, limiting a team to just 34.7 percent shooting should be more than enough to get a win. But when you shoot just a shade better than that, and you get clobbered on the glass, well it shouldn't come as too big a shock then if you lose.
Boston is jump-shooting team that can defend at a high level, but the C's came up short on both ends in losing 84-79 to the Raptors.
Although the Celtics statistically played good defense, they failed to make the necessary plays when they mattered most.
"We pride ourselves on being able to get stops down the stretch," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "And they scored. We made silly plays after silly play; bad fouls. Left open shooters, made up our defense and made some switches where we should not have that's not characteristic of how we play defense."
Although Toronto shot less than 35 percent for the game, they were at nearly 50 percent (48.5 to be exact) from the field in the second half, and they shot almost 44 percent in the fourth quarter. When you tack on the Raptors making all 11 of their fourth-quarter free throws, it adds up to a disappointing loss for a team that has visions of positioning itself with as high a seed as possible for the playoffs.
"That has to be the mindset," said Paul Pierce, referring to the C's chances of improving their playoff position. "Regardless of who steps on the court, with the possibility of moving up to three, keeping the fourth seed, end of the year these are must-win games for us."
Boston's inability to make the clutch defensive stop certainly played a role in their upset loss to the Raptors. Here we'll review other factors that may have contributed to the loss which snapped the Celtics' four-game winning streak.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR For all that has gone wrong for the Raptors this year, they have been a decent team defensively. Teams are averaging 94.9 points per game against them, which ranks 14th in the NBA. More impressive is that they are not allowing teams to get off a ton of shots against them. Opponents average 77.8 field goal attempts against them this season, which ranks No. 3 in fewest field goals allowed. But the problem is that often teams don't need to make a lot of shots, because the few shots they are taking do in fact go in. Boston takes the fewest number of shots (77) per game in the NBA, but they rank fifth in field goal percentage (46 percent).
WHAT WE SAW: Toronto's defense was among the factors contributing to Boston's loss. The Raptors limited the Celtics to just 37.5 percent shooting - almost 10 percentage points below their season average - which heavily factored into the loss that snapped a four-game winning streak. "We had a lot of good shots," said Paul Pierce. "I don't know if it's fatigue, going through a rough schedule, it being the end of the week, it's crazy because we got three games in a row so there's no time to be fatigued."
MATCHUP TO WATCH - Brandon Bass vs. Amir Johnson: One of the most under-rated parts of the Celtics' run of late has been the defense and rebounding of Brandon Bass. The mid-range jumper is going to be there all the time, but it has been his ability to hold his own on the boards and not allow guys to score at will on him, that's helping the Celtics finish out the regular season strong. Johnson will start in place of Andrea Bargnani (calf), but has been with the first group for 37 games this year. He's more of an energy guy who feeds off of put-back baskets and tip-ins. Because so much of his game is about effort and not execution per se, Bass has to limit Johnson's ability to make multiple effort plays.
WHAT WE SAW: Bass going 5-for-11 with 10 points was not that big an issue. It was the three rebounds he grabbed that, for the Celtics, was a problem. His lack of production on the boards was indicative of the entire Celtics team, which was out-rebounded by 13.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Mickael Pietrus looked good on Wednesday with eight points and six rebounds in just under 29 minutes - a lot more productive than most would have thought considering he hadn't played since March 23 due to a concussion. After showing no post-concussion symptoms, the C's and Pietrus are hoping to just continue building off of that game and develop a nice rhythm heading into the playoffs later this month.
WHAT WE SAW: Pietrus' did a decent job defensively, and the Celtics certainly benefited from his six rebounds. But on this night, they needed him to make shots. And Pietrus, much like the rest of his teammates, failed to do so. He had just three points while missing six of his seven shot attempts.
STAT TO TRACK: Prepare to see the Boston Celtics spend a lot of time at the free throw line tonight. Attacking the basket off the dribble is always a goal of the Celtics, well aware that it generates more free throw attempts which for a good free throw shooting team like the C's, creates easy opportunities to score. But they'll likely get an assist or two in their effort tonight against Toronto, which averages an NBA-high 23.4 personal fouls committed per game. Not surprisingly, that has led to a plethora of free throw attempts by opponents. According to NBA.comstats, the Raptors are allowing opponents to shoot an NBA-high 27 free throw attempts per game.
WHAT WE SAW: Boston's lack of aggressiveness from the start eventually caught up to them. But even before the Raptors picked up their play, Boston's inability to attack resulted in a limited number of free throw attempts. The C's were just 15-of-19 from the free throw line, compared to Toronto which was 27-for-31.