Posted on February 7, 2018, by Travis Pulver

The Boston Celtics have not played great without Kyrie Irving but have still managed to win games. They took a four-game winning streak into Tuesday night’s game against the Toronto Raptors. With Kyrie Irving coming back, hopes were high the streak would extend to five games before the night was over.

But the Raptors had a different ending in mind.

Via @raptors_fgsn

You would think that a game featuring the two top teams in the Eastern Conference would be must-see television. During the first quarter, it appeared as if that might be the case. A quick 8-2 run by the Raptors to take an early lead led to a 7-0 run by the Celtics that gave them the lead. But Toronto followed that up with another to take a 17-11 lead.

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By the time the first period ended, the Raptors held a slight lead, 22-18. At that point, it was still anyone’s game. But then it got ugly for the Celtics—fast.

The Celtics struggled to hit a shot while the Raptors continued to be adept at scoring in bunches. When the quarter came to a merciful end, the Raptors were up 58-37.

In recent games, the Celtics have struggled in the first half but then mounted a crazy comeback in the second. But that wasn’t about to happen here. They made the first shot of the second half, a layup by Irving at the 10:30 mark. But then the team failed to make another basket from the floor until the 6:53 mark.

But as bad as their offense was, the defense picked up its game a little. Despite Boston’s improvements on defense, the Raptors still extended their lead two points.

With a 23-point hole heading into the fourth, an epic comeback would have been needed for the Celtics to win the game. But Brad Stevens didn’t seem to think it was in the cards. He played his bench in the final quarter as did the Raptors. When the final buzzer sounded, the Raptors won 111-91.

Stevens was blunt when he spoke with the media after the game (ESPN): “We got our butts kicked by a really good team who physically overwhelmed us from a speed and physicality standpoint. We need to do a better job.”

Irving, who scored 17 points in 22 minutes, was pretty straightforward with his assessment as well (ESPN):

“As one of the veterans on this team, I just got to be better. This one is just mainly on me, kind of just taking responsibility and trying to be better as we go forward.”

Kyle Lowry led the way for the Raptors with 23 points and eight rebounds followed by C.J. Miles who had 20 points in just 15 minutes off the bench. Terry Rozier led the way for Boston with 18 points in 24 minutes off the bench.

Via @Sportsnet

The Aftermath

After games such as this, it appears that the Celtics may be wise to bring in another scoring option before the trade deadline passes. Kyrie Irving is usually a tremendous option for them, but when he has an off-night, they are in trouble.

They’ve had this issue all season but have been able to cover for it with defense. But should Boston make it to the finals to face Golden State, they will need to score more if they are going to win.

The trade deadline is this Thursday.

Next up for Toronto will be a visit from the New York Knicks Thursday night. But the Knicks will be without their best player. Kristaps Porzingis was lost for the season Tuesday night due to an ACL injury. Boston will not take the court again until Thursday night as well. They’ll be in Washington to face the Wizards.

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