Coming into Friday’s game against the Toronto Raptors we somehow knew the Celtics had this game circled on their calendar after losing to this team by 12 in their first encounter. Although this time around things were different, the Celtics were at TD Garden and Kyrie Irving seems to be back in basketball shape as he dropped a season high 43 points in the win.
Celtics vs. Raptors Overview
Both All Stars for both clubs put on a show in Friday’s game, Raptors Kawhi Leonard dropped a team high 31 points and 15 rebounds, while Irving had 43 points and 11 assists. Second year player Jayson Tatum chipped in with some clutch plays down the stretched, he finished with 21 points and 7 rebounds.
Boston’s struggles on the offensive end affected the game through three quarters, as the Raptors were in full control. Boston was outscored 30-24 in the third quarter, which helped the Raptors hold a four point lead heading into the fourth. Things looked to be going in the same direction as it did in their first meeting, but Irving had other plans. Irving scored 23 of his 43 points in the fourth and overtime periods.
“It’s just not too often during the regular season you get to have games like this,” Irving said. “So you want to take full advantage of them. They’re a great test for your team on both ends of the basketball floor. A great player in the other locker room. So you’ve just got to be on your P’s and Qs for the unknown, and that’s the competition.”
Attacking the Rim
The difference for the Celtics in the fourth quarter was their aggressive play at attacking the rim. Through three quarters Boston was settling for outside and tough contested jumpers, which hurt them on the scoreboard. Toronto on the other hand had attempted 25 free throws before the start of the fourth quarter, the Celtics had only taken 12.
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens emphasized the teams need to get to the hole, “We need to do a better job at attacking the paint, period,” said Stevens. “Kyrie’s ability to get in there is so unique. We just need to be better at that.”
In fact Irving’s unique ability was on full display during the fourth as he was attacking the basket at ease with multiple Raptor defenders clogging the paint. This included a fast break layup with three Raptors around him and a tough one handed shot over Serge Ibaka. “It’s just a mindset,” Irving said. “It’s a mindset that we just have to ingrain in all of us.”
“Just find that happy balance of the 3-pint line as well as getting to the rim and then not taking tough 2’s but taking 2’s that are off the second-side action or just driving to the rim and being aggressive.”