The Boston Celtics could not tighten the gap for first place in the Eastern Conference on Wednesday night.
First half turnovers by the C’s and a strong Toronto Raptors defense kept Boston from accomplishing that feat as the Celtics suffered a 96-78 loss at the Air Canada Centre.
The Celtics were led by Marcus Morris, who had a team-high 21 points and collected five rebounds, and was one of three players to put up double digits for Boston. Aside from the first quarter, Toronto dominated the rest of the game, forcing 17 turnovers in a win that could be an Eastern Conference finals preview.
With the loss, Boston drops to 53-25, while Toronto improves to 56-22.
Here’s how it all went down:
PG: Terry Rozier
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Al Horford
C: Aron Baynes
STRONG OPENING QUARTER
The first quarter featured seven lead changes with the Celtics holding on to a 20-14 lead after it ended. This was Toronto’s lowest-scoring first quarter of the season as the Raptors only shot 26.1 percent from the field while the C’s hit on 42.1 percent of their shots. Brown and Greg Monroe each had five points in the frame, while Morris was right behind them with four.
Boston let the Raptors take the lead and run away with it heading into halftime. Monroe continued to put up buckets for Boston, scoring four of the team’s 13 second-quarter points. The C’s were 0-for-6 from downtown in the second, but it was the turnovers that cost them as the Raptors capitalized on Boston’s errors, scoring 17 points off nine turnovers. The second was heavily dominated by Toronto as the team went on a 20-3 run to take a 43-33 lead into the locker room at halftime. The Raptors focused on shutting down Tatum and were consistent in attacking the passing lanes which caused Boston’s offense to sputter.
TROUBLE IN THE THIRD
Toronto led for the entire third quarter and held the Celtics to just 53 points through three thanks in large part to their dynamic duo of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. Boston continued to struggle to find the bottom of the net in the third, so much in fact that head coach Brad Stevens put the newest member of the squad, Xavier Silas, on the floor to see if he could give Boston some offensive production. But Silas couldn’t give the C’s a lift, missing on his first three shot attempts. Despite being outplayed, Boston kept the game in reach and went on a 7-1 run in the final 1:06 of the quarter to cut the lead to 14 heading into the final stanza.
NO COMEBACK THIS TIME
The Celtics have made a number of dramatic comebacks this season, but it was not in the cards Wednesday. Boston simply couldn’t keep up with the Raptors with Tatum being shut down and Kyrie Irving still out with a knee injury. The C’s continued to fight but eventually, the deficit grew too large and Stevens called off the dogs.
PLAY OF THE GAME
Monroe drives the ball to the net past Lucas Nogueira for the deuce.
The Celtics are back in action Friday night when they host the Chicago Bulls. Tip-off from TD Garden is slated for 7:30 p.m. ET.