TORONTO – The misery continues for the Toronto Raptors.
Jaylen Brown scored 27 points to lift a Boston Celtics team missing leading scorer Jayson Tatum to a 106-104 victory over the Raptors — their ninth consecutive victory.
Pascal Siakam had 29 points and 10 rebounds to top the Raptors (20-27), who lost their third straight, and third in a row to an undermanned team. The Raptors have lost four of five since recording their first three-game win streak of the season.
“It was really too much hit and miss,” coach Nick Nurse said. “I think that’s what I just talked to the guys about. There was a lot of times when we controlled the ball, pursued the ball, contested at the rim, blocked shots at the rim, etc. And then there’s just too many times when it’s a straight-line drive and a layup, right? We just can’t give those up.
“So that part of just being much more solid, more consistent over the 48 I think is definitely a big part of it.”
Gary Trent Jr. had 22 points, Precious Achiuwa finished with 17 points and 11 boards, and Scottie Barnes had 10 points.
The Raptors’ previous two losses came against short-handed teams: a 130-122 defeat Tuesday to a Milwaukee squad minus superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, and then a 128-126 loss Thursday against a Timberwolves team that was missing Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns, and had played at altitude in Denver a night earlier.
“It’s tough, it’s hard,” Siakam said. “There’s so many of those games where I felt we did a lot, a lot of good things, couple of mistakes here and there and you pay for it. It sucks.”
Tatum, the league’s third-leading scorer and an MVP candidate, sat out Saturday with a wrist injury. The Celtics injury woes worsened when they lost both Marcus Smart (right ankle sprain) and Robert Williams (hyperextended knee) in the first half. Smart, who had two points and four assists, rolled his ankle making a cut, and gestured immediately for medical help when he fell, pointing to his foot.
“To win in the NBA is hard enough, to win on the road down a bunch of guys is hard to do,” Brown said. “You don’t want to take it for granted, but we definitely have enough on this team, enough in this locker-room to win games whoever is on the floor.”
The Raptors, who were missing all-star guard Fred VanVleet (rib soreness), can’t say the same. The Raptors also lost O.G. Anunoby, who had 12 points before leaving the game three-and-a-half minutes into the fourth quarter after jamming his foot. The Raptors initially said he was available to return, but medical staff advised against it.
Nurse said VanVleet was injured against Atlanta a week earlier, and that he’s “questionable” for Sunday.
Other than an early 11-point lead for Toronto, the game was a tight back-and-forth battle. The Raptors opened the fourth quarter clutching a four-point advantage, but Payton Pritchard’s third three-pointer of the final frame opened up an eight-point gap for Boston with 5:53 to play.
The Scotiabank Arena crowd erupted when Trent’s three-pointer, his second in a minute-and-a-half, tied the game at 103-103 with 2:23 to play. But Pritchard replied with his fourth long bomb to put Boston (35-12) back on top. A Siakam free throw made it a two-point game and then, with the crowd on its feet, Trent missed a basket but stole the ball off Pritchard with 14.1 seconds left.
A frantic few final seconds saw Raptors coach Nick Nurse livid at a jump ball call with 8.6 seconds to play. Toronto gained possession with 3.1 seconds left, but Siakam turned the ball over to send the fans home unhappy.
“It says a lot about our team,” Boston coach Joe Mazzulla said of his team’s short-handed victory.
Thad Young’s hook shot capped a Raptors’ 15-4 run that gave Toronto an 11-point lead with 2:30 left in the first quarter. But the Celtics replied with a 12-2 run to pull to within 27-26 heading into the second.
The see-saw second quarter saw the lead change hands eight times, before a 9-0 run by Toronto late in the half. The Raptors went into the halftime break up 57-50.
A pair of consecutive Brogdon three-pointers sliced Toronto’s advantage to just a point with 2:04 left in the third quarter. The Raptors took an 85-81 lead into the fourth.
The Raptors didn’t have rookie forward Christian Koloko, who had been assigned to their G League affiliate Raptors 905 for the first time.
“We’re gonna try to get him down there, get him a lot more minutes, a lot more reps,” Nurse said. “Hopefully they’ll give him the ball some so he can get some attempts, get some confidence.”
Koloko’s 905 debut will be Sunday at the Wisconsin Herd.
“I would say (Koloko) is probably gonna jockey back and forth right now, but more leaning toward there, but with us when the schedule permits,” Nurse said.
The Raptors host Canadian R.J. Barrett and the New York Knicks on Sunday. The Raptors beat the Knicks in a 123-121 thriller on Monday in New York. The Raptors then head out on a season-long seven-game road trip, beginning Wednesday at Sacramento.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2023.
© 2023 The Canadian Press