The Toronto Raptors like to focus on star power. They're going to do their best to take away your stars and make you play left-handed. For most teams, that's a problem. On some nights, though, they make stars out of the overlooked.
That was the case Thursday night against the Boston Celtics. Toronto came into the game focused on stopping Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Kemba Walker. They held the first two in check, holding the pair to just 30 points combined and didn't get killed by Walker. The issue was the other guys. Payton Pritchard and Semi Ojeleye were too much for Toronto, combining for 44 points including 12 3-pointers to down the Raptors 120-106 in Boston.
Toronto was able to get the ball out of Tatum and Brown's hands with a lot of success, but instead of forcing up shots they combined for 19 assists.
"We are kind of trying to kind of funnel the ball [to Ojeley and Pritchard]," Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. "We probably shouldn't have funneled it so much in certain scenarios, if that makes any sense. We had plenty of help and didn't need to help off them after they hit a few. ... I think we were trying to do the right things and give them credit, they shot, those guys shot them kind of into a comfortable double digit lead for most of the night."
The Raptors certainly had chances Thursday night. They cut a 15-point third-quarter lead all the way down to just nine and forced 10 straight misses from the Celtics, but Toronto just ran out of gas on the offensive end. The Raptors couldn't seem to finish at point-blank range repeatedly missing layups that would have cut the lead down even more.
"We’ve got to get better at finishing. We’ve got to have a mindset of how important it is. We’ve got to practice it. We’ve just got to be better," Nurse said.
The teams combined to go nearly four minutes without a bucket, missing 17 straight shots.
Toronto pulled to within five midway through the fourth, but on the second night of a back-to-back, there was nothing more the Raptors could do. Aron Baynes missed a pair of layups and the Celtics went right back up by 10.
It marked the end of what's been an exhausting six-game road trip that included five games in seven days. Despite the loss to Boston, the Raptors wrapped up the trip 4-2 and have moved out of the NBA's basement and into the middle class of the Eastern Conference.
"I think this was a good trip for us, we played some tough teams, we found a little bit of a groove," Kyle Lowry said. "Pascal really picked up his game, Norm played well, but we wish we'd gone 6-0."
Siakam tallied 23 points on Thursday night, eclipsing the 20-point mark for the sixth time in the last eight games.
"I had a lot of games where injury one day, the next you got something else going on so I’m blessed that I’m healthy and I work really hard to take care of my body. I’ve been feeling good, just overall," Siakam said.
OG Anunoby Expected Back
The Raptors should get OG Anunoby back for their next game on Sunday, Raptors coach Nick Nurse said prior to Thursday's game
Up Next: Minnesota Timberwolves
The Raptors will have a couple of days off before returning on Valentine's Day to take on the Minnesota Timberwolves at 7 p.m.