Raptors Lose by an Inch in Game 2 against Celtics
Sometimes it's a game of inches.
That's what the Toronto Raptors learned Tuesday night against the Boston Celtics.
After squandering an eight-point fourth-quarter lead, the Raptors had a chance to tie it up late. They went to their lead scorer Pascal Siakam in the final seconds, hoping to erase a three-point Celtics lead, but Siakam's foot was one size too big. As he turned tried to maneuver in the left corner, his foot came down just out of bounds, allowing the Celtics to clinch a 2-0 series lead with a 102-99 victory in Game 2.
None of it would have been possible for the Celtics if not for a herculean fourth quarter from Marcus Smart. The Celtics' 26-year-old wing started the game 1-for-5 from beyond the arc but came out to start the fourth quarter on fire, nailing five straight 3-pointers to turn an eight-point Raptors lead into a one-point Celtics advantage.
"It's tough, he got five threes," Kyle Lowry said. "We played a well-energized game, we just didn't close it out. We just didn't finish the game defensively as we should have."
It was a classic performance from Smart one of the most hot-and-cold players in the NBA.
"I ain't never met nobody like Smart," Jayson Tatum said. "He is one of a kind.”
Late in the fourth quarter, Tatum had a chance to put the Celtics up six with just over a minute to go, but with OG Anunoby guarding him, he extended his arm, pushing off and getting called for the offensive foul. Upset by the call, he turned around in frustration, gesturing in disgust and getting called for a technical.
It was the lone lowlight for Tatum in an otherwise remarkable 34-point performance. The mistake opened the door for a Raptors comeback, as Lowry pulled Toronto to within three by converting the technical.
But that comeback was not to be.
Siakam's first attempt to tie the game was snuffed out by Smart, who appeared to foul the Raptors' forward on the drive, but touched the ball out-of-bounds giving the Raptors one more chance.
"I think Smart fouled the sh*t out of him on the one," Raptors coach Nick Nurse said.
Lowry subsequently took the ball out of bounds and found Anunoby on the inbound, but when the ball was swung to Siakam, he stepped out of bounds, turning the ball over to the Celtics.
It was the lone turnover from Siakam, who looked impressive as a facilitator at times, but again continued to struggle with his shot. He went 6-for-16 from the field and just 1-for-4 from 3-point range.
"We just tell him our confidence is in him," Lowry said. "We know how good he can be and how dominant of a basketball player he can be, he has to figure it out and play, make some shots, if he makes some shots it's a different game, he makes some layups it's a different game, it happens sometimes, it just happens, he's missing some shots that he's used to making."
The loss squandered an impressive scoring performance from Anunoby who set a playoff-high with 20 points, the most of any Raptors player Tuesday evening. He nailed four 3-pointers in the game and looked fluid scoring at the rim.
The problem for Toronto was their 3-point shooting from their starting guards who combined to shoot 3-for-19 from 3-point range.
"I think my shots feel good, but you want to see them go in a little bit more," Lowry said. "I haven't shot the ball extremely well, and I know I can shoot, so it's kind of like just being in the mindset of alright, there it is, there it is, keep getting a feel for it."
The big Raptors' fourth-quarter lead came thanks to an 11-0 run in the third quarter, sparked by a Serge Ibaka 3-pointer and culminating in a transition layup from Fred VanVleet and a free throw from Siakam after Nurse got a foul call overturned.
Free Throw Disparity:
The free throw disparity in the first half was certainly a little questionable for the Raptors. Boston got to the line nine times before the break while Toronto recorded zero free-throw attempts.
Tatum alone went to the free-throw line 14 times, nearly as many as the Raptors as a team who took 19 free throws.
"He shoots 14 free throws which is as much as our whole team shoots," Nurse said. "That's the frustrating part."
It wasn't too long ago that the Raptors were down 0-2 to the Milwaukee Bucks in last year's Eastern Conference semifinals and clawed back to win four straight.
"I mean we're pretty pissed right now we're down 0-2, but you know we have to go back and look at the film and understand what we've done wrong and what we can do better," Lowry said. "This is not a situation, we'd like to be in but you know it's not a normal situation in the playoffs where we last two home games. We just lost two games. We got a chance to get enough to get one game. That's all gotta do is get one game and take one day, one game at a time and know that the Celtics have been playing extremely well so we got to find a way to, you know, get our ourselves going."
Though Kawhi Leonard won't be stepping onto the court for Toronto in this playoffs, the Raptors are an experienced group who knows how to overcome playoff adversity.
Siakam ended the first half with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer over Jaylen Brown from way behind the arc.
Moment of the pre-game:
Prior to the game, the Sportsnet broadcast showed Fred VanVleet's daughter Sanaa waiting to presumably her father before Game 2.
Raptors players were allowed to have their family members join them in the NBA bubble on Monday.
The Raptors will tip off Game 3 against the Celtics on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. ET.