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Scottie Barnes Responds to Nick Nurse's Criticism, but Raptors Blown Out by Celtics

The Toronto Raptors have seen Scottie Barnes continue to develop, but the offense was out of sync in a blowout loss to the Boston Celtics

Back in the preseason, I asked Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse how he was going to judge Scottie Barnes this season. At that point, we didn't know much about the fourth overall pick. He was a defensive standout at Florida State with major offensive question marks.

"I would say that he's going to get out there and play. Probably not looking at the stats, would be one way. Don't judge him by that," Nurse said. "I'd probably judge him by the amount of minutes he logs this year. Because that's the way he's going to get better is being on the floor."

What Nurse was really saying is Barnes needs experience and reps. That's what this season has always been about for the Raptors and Barnes: play hard, work hard, learn from your mistakes, and keep developing. So when Nurse criticized Barnes' passiveness following his seven-shot attempt performance on Sunday night, the rookie's response would be telling. 

Barnes' response was clear. He came out looking confident Wednesday night. He worked a pick-and-roll with Fred VanVleet and lept up for the one-handed alley-oop jam to open the scoring for Toronto. He was still looking to make plays for others, occasionally to his detriment, but Barnes certainly heard the message. He was 6-for-9 in the first half and finished the game with a team-high 21 points including a career-high eight free-throw attempts.

"I think he tried to work his way down inside, he got to the foul line some and 7 for 11 from the field and 21 points, pretty efficient on 11 shots," Nurse said. "So yeah, he's trying to adjust to what's going on out there pretty good and he does a good job of it."

His ability to respond to criticism may have been the only positive news for Toronto in a 104-88 loss to the Boston Celtics. The Raptors got beat at their own game, coughing up turnovers and getting dominated on the glass.

"It was a tough night tonight, that's for sure," Nurse said. "I think we didn't block out well. We didn't get on the boards well. I thought we got out of position on defense a lot and gave them some easy perimeter shots."

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It was as sloppy a first half as Toronto has had all season. The Raptors were settling for mid-range floaters and giving up easy points in the paint at the other end. The defense eventually clicked in the third quarter, but Toronto's offense remained out of sync, struggling to score consistently in the half-court and, even more concerning, unable to produce in transition.

The Raptors scored just 16 points off 15 turnovers and were outshot by the Celtics by a 94 to 77 margin. It was essentially a reversal of their late October matchup when Toronto did the same thing to Boston in a game Celtics coach Ime Udoka said his squad got "punked" by the Raptors.

"We knew they were going to come with some force and some physicality. We addressed it. We talked about it a lot and we just didn't get it done to start the game," Nurse said.

Watanabe Making Progress

Yuta Watanabe shouldn't be too far away, Nurse said pre-game. 

"As far as Yuta goes, he has made some progress here lately. I mean he's out there today, again, we didn't have contact today obviously, but we did do some full-speed things," Nurse said. "I haven't checked on the day-to-day timeline, but I'm hoping it's pretty soon, end of this week or start of next week when we go on that big long road trip, we can get him back."

That road trip starts on Monday against the Portland Trail Blazers.

Up Next: Philadelphia 76ers

Toronto will be right back at it Thursday night when the Raptors take on the Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons-less Philadelphia 76ers.