An initial look at the box score of the Celtics’ 100-93 loss to the Raptors on Saturday night tells a pretty simple story against why the C’s dropped a pivotal Game 4. They shot a season-worst 20 percent from 3-point range (7-of-35) and it was too much to overcome that horrific shooting night from the perimeter.
If you listened a bit closer to the Celtics players after the defeat, though, you heard a different story. The Celtics had a chance to sink the Raptors' hopes of a comeback again and they came out and failed to match their intensity?
“They played harder than we did and I think that was just noticeable on both ends of the floor for most part of the game,” Jayson Tatum declared.
“I thought we just didn’t match those guys’ intensity,” Kemba Walker added.
This was a far different stance than the one Brad Stevens had immediately after the game. Effort wasn’t an issue for him from the sidelines, at least not publicly.
“Guys played exceptionally hard and did a lot of good things,” Stevens said. “But the other team is out there, too. And they made it very tough on us. When you miss, as we know, it can kinda cascade on you, and that’s what happened tonight. We gotta handle that better.”
In situations like this, the film tells the story and it doesn’t tell a good one for the Celtics. The Raptors gained life with a miracle win in Game 3 and it appeared the Celtics were still suffering from a hangover after the gut-punch loss in Game 4. Toronto only shot 39 percent from the field and still found a way to win this game. How? They benefitted from a Celtics team that looked like they were playing a mostly meaningless game against Sacramento Kings on a random Wednesday night in January with plays like this.
Three Celtics had no real interest in grabbing this rebound a minute into the game. pic.twitter.com/zHYZ54JA1x
— Brian Robb (@BrianTRobb) September 6, 2020
The lackluster focus was so widespread, we were able to compile some effort/mental mistakes for nearly every member of the Celtics core.
The swingman will get the headlines for a horrific shooting night and those are understandable. He tied a team-high with 18 shot attempts, knocking down just four of those attempts. He also took more shots in the fourth quarter (9) than the rest of the team combined (8), showing a lack of awareness amid an ugly shooting night. However, the area that the coaching staff will likely have a bigger issue with Brown in this one comes on the defensive end. His 3-point closeouts were consistently late in this game and that helped the Raptors snap out of a funk and hit a stellar 38 percent of their shots from 3-point range on a very high volume (17-of-44).
Siakam may be struggling in this series shooting from deep but sagging off him by several feet when the ball is a pass away got Brown in trouble early.
OG Anunoby has been red hot in this series from 3 (55 percent) so Stevens' reaction says it all after Brown took his time to get into Anunoby’s airspace on this 3 in the second half.
The Celtics can afford a bad shooting night from Brown once in a while but they can’t afford lazy defense from him on top of that. Between the weak closeouts and the foul trouble, Siakam had his way with Brown in the midrange (8-of-10 on 2-point FGs) for the first time all series. It was a major letdown for a guy who should have been plenty motivated after the way Game 3 ended.
24 points, 10 rebounds and 3 assists indicate there shouldn’t be much to complain about the All-Star's effort compared to the rest of the Celtics roster. However, Tatum deserved to call himself out for some of his miscues in this game.