On the scoreboard the result actually flattered Toronto in its second pre-season game.
The 125-119 OT win over the host Boston Celtics only looked respectable because of the efforts of the Raptors’ end-of-the-bench guys or would-be end-of-the-bench guys who played most of the fourth quarter and turned a game that was decidedly in Boston’s favour most of the night into the second Toronto win in two pre-season games.
Having easily handled a mostly young and unquestionably rebuilding Utah team in their first pre-season action, the Raptors took a huge step up in class against a veteran Celtics team that, similar to Toronto, returns most of its core intact.
Where the Raptors ran roughshod over Utah’s defence Sunday in Edmonton, it was a different story against the Celtics who were one of the best defensive teams a year ago and remain a stingy outfit.
Toronto’s starters, who struggled in the halfcourt a year ago and continue to struggle there, had their hands full from the outset.
Notably absent was any semblance of success from behind the arc, where the Raptors failed to hit, until five minutes into the second quarter.
Through the first half they were just 2-for-18 from behind the arc, an important part of the Raptors offence. Without it they got down early and until the reserves made that run in the fourth it was not a great night from Toronto’s perspective.
Through three quarters they hit just one more before Raptors’ head coach Nick Nurse turned things over to his bench for the final quarter and ultimately the win.
Nurse limited point guard Fred VanVleet to just under 19 minutes which was actually 10 more than he played against Utah. It’s all in line with the Raptors’ desire to cut down on VanVleet’s usage.
Nurse should find that easier now than he will in the regular season when the games count and VanVleet’s absence will be much more noticeable.
Siakam led all Raptors scorers with 13 in just under 23 minutes but the Raptor who stood out the most, outside of pretty much everyone who ended the game on the floor, was rookie Christian Koloko.
Koloko, for the second time in a week, wound up with a bloodied nose — he also got popped in the open scrimmage last Friday in Victoria — this time courtesy of a shoulder from Al Horford.
Koloko, though, shook that off and came back with his left nostril stuffed with tissue to show some of that offensive touch his teammates have marvelled at in practice.
Koloko will earn his minutes on his screening and shot blocking and his defence, but he showed a deft little touch in the paint on a few occasions Wednesday night suggesting there is even more there with the second-round pick than anyone initially thought.
Josh Jackson and Jeff Dowtin Jr., two guys battling for a spot at the end of the roster, were the two focal points in the fourth-quarter and OT comeback with Jackson throwing down 13 and Dowtin, handling the point, finishing with 10 to turn what looked like a sure loss into a win.
Sam Hauser, the Boston rookie out of Virginia had three consecutive threes in the final minutes of the first and second before he missed a wide open fourth.
The Celtics already boast a guy off the bench capable of doing what Hauser showed on Wednesday in Payton Pritchard which is great for the Celtics and more trouble for their opponents.
INJURY BIG BITES
Malachi Flynn did not escape the first pre-season game in Edmonton without some added baggage.
The Raptors’ reserve point guard, looking to establish himself as the next best option running the club behind starter VanVleet, wound up banging heads with an opponent and after a more thorough examination the next day discovered a slight fracture in his left cheekbone.
Flynn was not in uniform Wednesday in Boston and will likely miss at least Friday’s game in Houston as well as Sunday’s game back home against Chicago.
The good news is he is expected back by the opener Oct 19 at the latest, although he will be playing with a mask for at least a little while.
WHO WOULDN’T WANT MORE SIAKAM
Siakam has been such a key part of this franchise since his rookie season and such a positive influence throughout his time here, it barely raised an eyebrow when the team decided to bring his brother into the fold.
Christian Siakam was announced as part of the Raptors 905 staff earlier this week. He’ll work under head coach and former Raptors’ assistant Eric Khoury.
Siakam, the older brother of Raptors starting forward Pascal Siakam, worked with the club last season and previously played professionally for Bahrain Club and the Malaysian club KL Dragons.
“He played basketball his whole life basically,” Pascal Siakam said of his brother. “He played overseas, he knows the game, he’s been around pros since I’ve been a pro, even before because he played overseas. So, he knows the game. He’s been around coaches every single year, with me, (Raptors’ assistant) Rico (Hines), like he’s been there the whole time. So, he knows what he’s doing, and I think that is going to help the 905 with some of the development because again, he’s seen my development and he was part of that.”
TAKE A BOW FANS
It was one of the first things Masai Ujiri talked about when he arrived to take over the Raptors from Denver. He said then he wanted to make Toronto a tough place to play for opponents. This season, in the annual survey of GM’s conducted by NBA.com, Ujiri got his wish.
Scotiabank Arena was voted by NBA general managers as the toughest to play in the NBA.
Not only are the Raptors fans consistently filling the arena, but they also fill it with a consistently loud and raucous group that makes communication and any comfort level tough for an opponent.
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