“Close but no cigar,” Red Auerbach made famous when he coached the Celtics.
The Raptors gave it all they could and even tried to summon more against a quality Boston team.
Playing valiantly, showing an ability to respond when all things looked bleak, there was a lot to like on this night.
There’s no consolation in losing and clearly the Celtics present matchup problems, areas Toronto cannot, at least for now, overcome.
Whether it’s size in the backcourt, being much more on point in crunch time, the Celtics have a clear edge and it showed following Boston’s 108-105 victory as Toronto dropped to 1-2 on its four-game homestand that wraps up Sunday with a visit by the Detroit Pistons.
Once again, the Raptors were minus O.G. Anunoby (lacerated finger), but they did, as expected, welcome back Gary Trent Jr., who had been dealing with a foot injury.
Trent Jr. started with rookie Gradey Dick emerging as the first player coming off the bench.
Unlike some recent games, the Raptors began the night by playing with force and energy to take the lead after the first quarter.
Boston dominated the second quarter, but then came a Raptors revival led by Pascal Siakam and Dennis Schroder.
Schroder had been struggling with his stroke, but there were no issues during a frenetic and electric stretch when he routinely drained three-pointers.
In the third quarter, Siakam and Schroder combined to score 19 of Toronto’s 32 points in what turned out to be a very competitive night when it looked like Boston would run the Raptors off the floor.
When the teams met in Boston last Saturday night, the Celtics cruised to a 117-94 win on a night the Raptors went a miserable 10-for-37 from distance.
There was nothing miserable to Toronto’s game Friday night as the Raptors made their debut in the NBA’s in-season tournament.
When they fell behind, the Raptors responded.
When the night turned tout, the Raptors did not shrink in a back and forth battle that wouldn’t be decided until very late.
In a game with so close with the margin for error so thin, ever possession loomed large.
A miss on the offensive end followed by a late close out allowed the Celtics to take advantage of a clean look from three-point range that gave the C’s the lead.
With a foul to give, the Celtics smartly fouled Scottie Barnes.
The game came down to the final 13.2 seconds in a one possession game.
On a side out of bounds play, the ball went to Barnes, whose good look from three-point range would not drop.
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Toronto was forced to foul Jrue Holiday with 8 seconds on the clock and in desperate need of help.
The first-year Celtics guard calmly stepped up to the line to seal the deal.
The Raptors rolled the dice when Siakam picked up two fouls in the first quarter.
They elected to keep Siakam in the game, but he would soon pick up his third.
He was limited to eight minutes in the first period, a stretch that saw Siakam score eight points on 4-of-5 shooting.
The Raptors kept Siakam on the bench for the entire second quarter when the visitors began to take control by outscoring Toronto 39-17.
For the record, Toronto led 24-18 when Siakam picked up his third foul with four minutes remaining in the first.
In the 16 minutes Siakam was not on the floor in the first half, the Celtics outscored the Raptors 47-25.
PRIDE OF REXDALE
Dalano Banton made his first trip back to the 6ix as a member of the Boston Celtics.
Drafted 46th overall by the Raptors in 2021, Banton stayed true to his roots when he selected jersey No. 45, the same number he sports as a member of the Celtics.
As a kid growing up in Rexdale, Banton rode the No. 45 bus that served the community.
When he played for the Raptors, Banton had his share of moments, whether it was running an offence from the point or using his length and athleticism on defence.
On a much deeper Boston team with legitimate title aspirations, Banton serves in a complementary role coming off the bench.
A video tribute was shown prior to tipoff.
Fellow Canadian Oshae Brissett, whose brother Dejon plays for the Argos, is also a member of Boston’s bench brigade after he decided to leave Indiana in free agency.
In three years with the Pacers, Brissett averaged 8.1 points and 4.5 rebounds.
He saved some of his best games when Indy visited Toronto knowing family and friends were in attendance.
Chris Boucher extended his three-point streak to five games when he buried a look from beyond the arc in the opening quarter … Otto Porter Jr., who started Monday’s game when Washington, his former team, was in town, was unavailable Friday night because of personal reasons … One of the features of the NBA’s in-season tournament involves the court and how teams have used different designs that stretch the limits of taste; in comparison to some rather gaudy colour tones, the Raptors’ choice to go with a black and gold look was very appealing to the eye; those on TV may have noticed the changing colour tones on their screens, which was caused by the arena’s lights; those in attendance did not experience what some called a psychedelic experience … The Raptors wore their city edition uniform … After making a combined six three-pointers in the game’s opening 24 minutes, the Raptors buried four straight to begin the third quarter in a span of three minutes … Toronto began the game by turning the ball over once in the opening period only to commit five in the second quarter.