BOSTON — No one will argue DeMar DeRozan taking an open look at the top of the free throw line for the win. Not even DeRozan fading away to make that shot. He’s practised it countless times, made it countless more and this time it didn’t go in as the Raptors came up on the short end of a 95-94 loss to the Celtics in Boston.
As Kyle Lowry pointed out after the game, stretching out the word “every” for full effect he will “roll with that shot every time.”
DeRozan was no less confident in his own abilities.
“Man, great look,” he said. “I make that in my sleep. Felt good, I thought it was going to roll in, but you know, it didn’t.”
The easy leap to make here is that once again with the game on the line, the Raptors went the predictable route eschewing all that talk about philosophical changes to the offence.
The point is though, this is not going to change. The Raptors are going to “ride or die” as the kids say these days with their best shooters down the stretch. That was always going to be the case and it will be the case until someone comes along who is a better scoring option than DeRozan or Lowry depending on who is holding the hot hand at the moment.
Right now that hot hand belongs to DeRozan.
The share-the-ball edict is still very much in effect. Just don’t expect that egalitarian approach in crunch time.
“I thought it was a great look,” head coach Dwane Casey said. “He shook him, he was wide open, he vaulted up. I’ll take that look 999 times out of a thousand. He came up short. He got to where he wanted to go. We got him open. The play was well executed by everybody. A guy just missed a shot. I’ll take that shot all day. The best player taking the shot he wants at that time.”
Casey took issue with a number of elements of the Raptors game Sunday but putting the ball in his best shooter’s hands in crunch time was not and never will be one of them.
“In the last two minutes of the game, you’ve got to get the ball to the right person,” Casey said. “I think the second unit did an excellent job of getting the lead, getting us in the game, keeping us in the game until the third quarter, moving the basketball with our movement game. But at the end of the day you’ve got to get the ball in the right hands.”
If there were issues in this one they were elsewhere, beginning with the turnovers and an inability keep opponents to just a single chance per possession.
The Raptors turned the ball over 11 times in the first half alone leading to 14 points. But it was on the offensive boards where the Celtics owned a 15-6 advantage that the Celtics really made hay.
Toronto actually outshot this team from the field and from behind the line but all those extra possessions which led to 21 second-chance points were their downfall on Sunday.
“They are the best team in the NBA right now, won 12 in a row and they are playing unbelievable,” Lowry said of the Celtics. “Everyone is picking up the slack. They lose Kyrie (Irving), or he doesn’t play and (Terry) Rozier, (Marcus) Smart, those guys step in. (Jayson) Tatum stepped up. They all played aggressive. They beat us with 15 offensive rebounds and 21 second-chance points. It’s kind of tough to come back on that.”
But that doesn’t mean this one doesn’t sting.
This was an opportunity missed with the Celtics playing without their leading scorer and engine in Kyrie Irving who is out with a facial fracture courtesy of an elbow from teammate Aron Baynes in Friday’s win over Charlotte.
This one had a similar feeling to the losses in San Antonio and Golden State earlier this year. Two other elite teams the Raptors seemed to get the better of everywhere but on the scoreboard.
This one felt like that too and now it’s on to Houston, where the Western Conference-leading Rockets pose yet another tough matchup for this Raptors squad. That game tips off at 8 p.m. Tuesday night.
Powell’s early departure looks costly
BOSTON — As is always the case with injuries of this sort, the severity or lack of severity won’t be revealed until the following day or perhaps even later.
But watching Norm Powell, who left the game midway through the first quarter, leave the arena on crutches, his head down, his mood likely worse than that was not a promising look.
Officially, Powell left the game with a hip pointer but his inability to put any weight on his right leg as he slowly made his way to the team bus made it look much more serious.
In his absence, Raptors head coach Dwane Casey turned Powell’s minutes over to rookie OG Anunoby and he responded with another solid game hot on the heels of a similar effort in the win over New Orleans.
The Raptors should know by practice Monday in Houston how long the rookie is going to have to hold down the fort.