Previewreview: Raptors 86, Celtics 74

668612.jpg

Previewreview: Raptors 86, Celtics 74

TORONTO "Awful. We were awful."

Yes, those were the words of Doc Rivers.

But after the Celtics' last two performances, you would be hard-pressed to know which game he was speaking about.

Many of the problems that plagued Boston against the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night were once again major issues for the C's on Friday. And the result was a second straight loss, this time to the lowly Toronto Raptors, 86-74.

Poor execution, untimely turnovers and a slew of late-reacting rotations all weighed in on the loss.

But as we identified prior to the game, there were other factors came into play.

Here's a look at how those issues played out.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: The Celtics' ball movement has actually been pretty good all season. More than 65 percent of their made baskets come via an assist, which is tops in the NBA. In the loss to the Lakers, 22 of their 38 made baskets, or 57.9 percent, came by way of an assist. When you talk about ball movement and assists with the Celtics, Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce are the keys. Injuries have limited them to playing in just 14 games together this season, with Boston going 8-6 with them both in the lineup. In those eight wins, they combine to average 16.9 assists. In the six losses, that number drops to 12.3.
WHAT WE SAW: Ball movement and overall execution on Friday were about as bad as we've seen with this core group. The entire team had a hand in the problems, obviously. But Pierce and Rondo are the two main cogs who can make the C's passing game hum along smoothly, or come to screeching halt. The latter was in effect on Friday, as they combined for just 12 assists - their combined assists average in the seven games both have played in that resulted in a Celtics loss.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Paul Pierce vs. DeMar DeRozan: The two best scorers for their respective teams, this is a matchup Pierce should win all day. But the thing about DeRozan is he, like a lot of young players, plays better at home. On the road, he averages 14 points per game. At home, that number jumps to 16.2. The biggest factor? He shoots the ball better. On the road, he connects on 36.5 percent of his shots. At home, he shoots 43 percent.
WHAT WE SAW: Toronto went with a bigger lineup because of injuries, so this matchup never materialized as expected. Still, DeRozan came out overly aggressive offensively, which worked out well for him and the Raptors. He led all scorers with 21 points on 7-for-13 shooting. As for Pierce, he had an atypical performance in finishing with 12 points on 4-for-11 shooting.

PLAYER TO WATCH: We all know Kevin Garnett shot the ball poorly Thursday night against the Los Angeles Lakers, and research afterward showed that it was historically bad by KG standards. In going 6-for-23 from the field, KG missed his last nine shots - the first time he missed that many consecutive shots as a member of the Boston Celtics. In addition, it was only the second time in his NBA career (at Cleveland, Jan. 29, 2002, then with Minnesota) that he missed his final nine shots of a game. Look for the C's to try and establish him down on the post early, just to get him into a better rhythm shooting the ball.
WHAT WE SAW: It's a shame that Garnett's really strong game offensively (17 points on 6-for-9 shooting, along with eight rebounds) goes to waste. While the numbers were certainly good to see, Garnett - like most of the Celtics - had far too few moments in which their shots or defensive stops, could propel the team to victory.

STAT TO TRACK: The Celtics have been one of the NBA's worst teams at getting to the free-throw line, which is another indictment of how they have a team that relies heavily - arguably, too heavily - on jump shots. Boston averages 19.6 free-throw attempts per game, which ranks 27th in the NBA. They don't necessarily have to get more attempts than that to beat Toronto, but another five free-throw-attempt night, like the one we saw against the Lakers, will make for yet another game in which the Celtics made harder than it needed to be.
WHAT WE SAW: Free-throw shooting wasn't nearly as big an issue on Friday as it was in the loss to the Lakers on Thursday night. Boston was 13-for-18 from the line, which isn't too far off what it usually averages in terms of free-throw attempts (19.6) or free throws made (15.1).

Tyronn Lue says Celtics harder to defend than Warriors: 'They're running all kinds of s---'

Tyronn Lue says Celtics harder to defend than Warriors: 'They're running all kinds of s---'

The Golden State Warriors are the least of Tyronn Lue's worries, Cleveland Cavaliers coach explained Tuesday.

Even though Lue and the Cavs are up 3-1 in the Eastern Conference Finals, he is apparently overwhelmed with the Boston Celtics to the point where he isn't even thinking about Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and the 67-win Warriors.

"We're just focused on Boston," Lue said of the Warriors following the Cavs' Game 4 win, via ESPN.com. "The stuff they're running, it's harder to defend than Golden State's [offense] for me, as far as the actions and all the running around and all the guys who are making all the plays, so it's a totally different thing."

No, seriously.

"Like, they hit the post, Golden State runs splits and all that stuff, but these guys are running all kinds of s---," Lue said of Boston coach Brad Stevens' schemes. "I'll be like, 'F---.' They're running all kinds of s---, man. And Brad's got them moving and cutting and playing with pace, and everybody is a threat. It's tough, you know, it's tough."

Without Isaiah Thomas, the Celtics finished Game 4 with four players who had 15 points or more. They also had six players who scored double digits in Boston's Game 3 win. Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart, Kelly Olynyk, Jae Crowder and Al Horford have made heavy offensive contributions. And they not just scoring. The Celtics are working hard off the ball by setting screens and cutting to the hoop to pressure the Cavaliers defense.

The Celtics may not have the Warriors' star power -- but Stevens and Boston are still managing to leave Lue in a state of clear befuddlement after a win.

LeBron James praised Stevens more directly when discussing how the Celtics "run different things" after losing Thomas to injury.

"So they had to kind of reshape, and that’s the beauty of having Brad Stevens as your coach," James told reporters. "You’re able to reshape what you do offensively and still be in a good rhythm. It’s been challenging for us to kind of — plays out of time-out, kind of been killing us on ATOs and keeping us off balance, but in the second half we kind of got a little bit of rhythm, and think we’ll be better in Game 5."