Toronto Raptors: Three takeaways from late-game collapse vs Celtics

Toronto Raptors - Kawhi Leonard (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Kawhi Leonard (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Raptors lost a back-and-forth contest to the Boston Celtics on the road. These type of defeats happen. The way they lost, was less excusable. Here are the three big takeaways.

Like many NBA contests, Wednesday night was a game filled with runs. The Toronto Raptors took the early lead, going up 11 before you could blink. The Boston Celtics responded, creating a 16-point lead of their own midway through the third quarter. Yet, by the end of the game, we found ourselves in a back-and-forth duel.

The duel ended in disappointing fashion, as Kyrie Irving and the Boston Celtics dominated the last four minutes of the game. Irving was fantastic all night, putting up 27 points and 18 assists. He and Kawhi Leonard battled back-and-forth throughout the game, showing why they’re two of the Eastern Conference’s elite.

A road loss to the Celtics is nothing to hang your head about. The way the Raptors lost, is much more disappointing. What did we learn from the defeat? Here are my three big takeaways.

1. Matchups

Lost in the lexicon sometime over the past few years, the old adage used to be that the NBA was a league of matchups. Tonight’s matchups were all over the place.

The Celtics placed their best defender, Marcus Smart, on Kawhi Leonard and hid Kyrie Irving away on Danny Green. As a result, Jayson Tatum ended up on Lowry. Lowry is far from an iso-nightmare, but he should have taken greater advantage of Tatum 1-on-1. In the second half, Boston allowed Kyrie to square off against Lowry. Lowry performed even worse than the first.

Toronto also tried to hide Lowry. Danny Green matched up against Kyrie Irving for most of the game, until late in the fourth when Kawhi Leonard attempted to take over. Kawhi slowed Kyrie down a little, but when Irving goes supernova like that, there is little you can do.

Rarely do teams cross-match this much. It will be interesting to see if Nick Nurse and Brad Stevens are experimenting right now, or if this will be the gameplan come playoff time.

2. Rotations

What happened at the end of the Sopranos, why people are obsessed with the Kardashians, and Nick Nurse’s rotation pattern last night, are the three biggest mysteries in my life right now. Nurse was all over the board against the Celtics, and if anyone can explain his rotations, please help me out.

Nurse played Ibaka at power forward briefly (I thought we were over this), played Danny Green — Toronto’s lowest usage starter — with the bench unit, and refused to stagger Leonard and Lowry minutes. Why, why, and Why?

The regular season provides an opportunity to test different lineups to see what might work in the postseason. In important games against one of the best teams in the NBA, he might want to try something a little more vanilla.

3. Late game execution

With under four minutes remaining, the Raptors were up four. From that point forward, they were outscored 17-4. Part of that was Kyrie Irving going bananas. That part you can live with. The late game offensive execution, you can’t.

Toronto shot 2-11 from the field in the final four minutes, with multiple shots coming as last-second heaves to avoid a shot-clock violation. Kawhi-isolation seems to be the only play in the playbook and many players seemed oddly passive.

The playoffs will come down to close games. Toronto can’t be afraid of the moment.

Next. Three types of trade targets for Raptors to look at this deadline. dark

Make sure to checkout takeaways after each game here at