|NEXT OPPONENT||(10/20) @ Washington|
|NEXT OPPONENT||10/20 @ New York|
Player of the Game
In only his second outing as a member of the Toronto Raptors, Kawhi Leonard reminded the NBA how damn good he actually is. Fresh off of his 24-point, 12-rebound performance on Oct. 17, Leonard followed it up with 31 and 10 on Oct. 19. He chipped in a few classic Leonard plays on the evening. He knocked down some big shots in the second half and sealed the Celtics fate in the fourth quarter with a huge chase down block of Jayson Tatum.
GAME RECAP AND ANALYSIS
“The Eastern Conference runs through the Celtics”
“The East Crown is headed North”
On paper, the Boston Celtics and Raptors are the favorites to meet up in an eventual Eastern Conference Finals matchup in May. For now, it’s October and these two teams have a long way to go before playoff time.
The NBA schedule makers wasted little time giving fans a glimpse of the likely Eastern Conference Finals pairing. On Friday, the Celtics traveled to Toronto for the NBA’s first true marquee matchup of the incredibly short season. With only one game played by each team entering the game, there wasn’t much tape on either team to start the year. Each won their opening night game in comfortable fashion.
Fresh off of lopsided wins, the excitement levels among the two fan bases was at an all-time high. The two top dogs of the Eastern Conference get to spar in only the second game of the year.
These two teams did not disappoint. Both Boston and Toronto played 48 minutes of solid basketball.
In a game that didn’t see a double-digit lead until the closing minutes of the fourth quarter, the teams battled back and forth most of the night.
Boston led for much of the first half, taking a four-point lead into the half. Toronto responded in the second half by outscoring Boston by 16 points over the two frames en route to a 12-point victory over the Celtics.
Raptors Shine in the Clutch
A dominant final three minutes sealed the deal for Toronto as they were only up by two points with just under three minutes left before running out on a 10-0 run over the final stretch of the game.
Leonard showed the world he was back to his MVP candidate form, and showed Toronto why they dealt franchise cornerstone DeMar DeRozan to land Leonard. Leonard paced the Raptors with a game-high 31 points.
Despite Leonard’s monster performance he wasn’t the biggest plus for Toronto on Friday night, that would happen to be Serge Ibaka. Ibaka turned back the clock on Friday night, giving the Raptors a 21-point (10-14 FG) and 6-rebound performance. Ibaka’s ability to protect the rim and crash the offensive glass played huge dividends for Toronto in the fourth quarter.
Signs of Promise
In defeat, Boston showed plenty of positive things on Friday night. Boston played considerably better than they did on Tuesday against Philly.
The Celtics, coming off a double-digit victory over the Philadelphia 76ers, had a major question facing them on Friday night. How will Kyrie Irving respond to his seven-point outing on Tuesday night?
That question was answered fairly early as Kyrie ooed and awed the away crowd with his crafty handles and smooth finishes at the basket. Irving finished as the Celtics high scorer with 20 points on the evening.
The thing from this game that Celtics fans should feel best about was the strong play from Gordon Hayward. Hayward finished with 14 points on the night, and showed more comfort in the pick and roll and drives to the basket than he did on opening night. As Hayward continues to get his legs back under him after such a long layoff, the prospect of him being the primary ball handler with this group of talent around him will be a sight to see for Celtics fans.