BOSTON – With Isaiah Thomas, the Boston Celtics would have had their hands full trying to defeat the Toronto Raptors.
But without him (right groin injury) and his 26.0 points and 6.2 assists, an already daunting task became that much harder.
The Celtics played a good game, but against Toronto and their All-Star backcourt it just wasn’t enough as the Raptors did just enough in the fourth to hold off Boston for a 101-94 win.
A 3-pointer by Marcus Smart brought the Celtics within 95-91 and following a defensive stop they had a chance to make it a one-possession game.
But Jae Crowder’s 3-pointer rattled in and out of the rim.
And on the ensuing possession, Al Horford was called for a foul while defending Kyle Lowry on a 3-point attempt with 30.6 seconds to play.
Lowry's play down the stretch was indicative of the problems Boston had with the all-star guard all game.
He finished with a game-high 34 points, 14 of which came in the third quarter which is when Toronto took over.
His All-Star backcourt mate DeMar DeRozan, ranked among the NBA’s top-5 scorers, had 24 points for the Raptors.
Meanwhile the Celtics were still trying to replace leading scorer Isaiah Thomas’ 26 points and 6.2 assists per game.
Boston didn’t need one player to fill that void, but rather a collective effort by all the players to do what they normally do, only better.
But that did not happen on Friday; not even close.
In the fourth quarter, the Celtics would score and make a play defensively which then put them in position to score as well as get the crowd hyped.
They consistently came up short until Avery Bradley drained a 3-pointer with less than three minutes to play that cut Toronto’s lead to 91-87.
He would finish with 19 points, sharing team-high scoring honors with Al Horford.
Raptors head coach Dwane Casey called a time-out with 2:53 to play.
Boston was unable to get any closer for the remainder of the game, a game in which the Celtics led by as many as 14 points in the third quarter.
However, the Raptors chipped away and eventually regained the lead with a 15-2 run capped off by a 3-pointer by Patrick Patterson that put the Raptors ahead 63-62.
Toronto’s momentum continued as they closed out the quarter with a 12-6 spurt which gave them a 75-68 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Despite spending the entire fourth quarter trailing, the Celtics continued to battle but it was to no avail as the Raptors executed at a high level at both ends of the floor to secure the win which was their eighth victory in their last nine games.