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Nov 16, 2023 7:39 pm

Raptors aim for faster start in in-season tourney debut vs. Celtics

The Toronto Raptors know they must break their habit of slow starts when they play the visiting Boston Celtics Friday night in their first NBA in-season tournament game.

Coach Darko Rajakovic said after Wednesday’s 128-112 loss to the visiting Milwaukee Bucks that the Raptors are trying to sort out their issues at the starts of games.

“I thought that in the first half that we overdribbled the ball, that we didn’t have enough body movement and ball movement and that was something that we (are) constantly preaching and talking about,” Rajakovic said. “We got it better in the second half but not enough tonight.”

The Raptors have overcome 22- and 23-point deficits to win games this season, but they could not come back after falling behind by as many as 33 to the Bucks.

“We did not have any pop to start the game,” Rajakovic said. “I don’t know the reasons, but we just didn’t bring it. A lot of times I felt that it was poor communication in execution of the coverage.”

The Raptors completed a 2-2 road trip last Saturday with a 117-94 loss to the Celtics.

The Raptors opened their four-game homestand with a 111-107 win over the Washington Wizards after falling behind by 23 points. They tried to come back against Milwaukee but got no closer than 13 points with 7:08 left in the fourth quarter.

“I thought that everything started with energy and force that we did not bring to start the game,” Rajakovic said.

The Raptors could not take advantage of the Bucks being without Giannis Antetokounmpo (calf strain). OG Anunoby (lacerated finger) and Gary Trent Jr. (foot) did not play for Toronto.

Pascal Siakam, who had 39 points against Washington, had 11 points against Milwaukee. Scottie Barnes led Toronto with 29 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. Jakob Poeltl added 13 points and 11 rebounds and Gradey Dick had 11 points in his first NBA start.

The Celtics will be going for their fifth straight win after defeating the host Philadelphia 76ers 117-107 on Wednesday.

Boston defeated Philadelphia without Jaylen Brown (illness) and Kristaps Porzingis (knee contusion).

Al Horford came up big, blocking five shots. He also made a key 3-pointer late in the game and finished with 14 points, including four 3-pointers, and eight rebounds.

“When you can empower him and he’s ready to go, it just makes us a different team,” Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said, “and he’s in that list of when he plays hard, he inspires everybody.”

The 76ers overcame a 17-point deficit to take a 58-57 halftime lead. In the second half, the Celtics regained control by limiting Philadelphia’s fast-break and second-chance opportunities.

At the start of the fourth quarter, Derrick White was the catalyst as Boston used pick-and-rolls effectively.

White scored 14 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter.

“He’s one of those guys that always shows up and makes the right play, and I thought he made some big-time plays,” Mazzulla said.

“We’ve got a lot of guys that can do a lot of different things,” White said, “and everybody is ready.”

Jason Tatum led Boston with 29 points.

“Our No. 1 goal (is) to treat every game like it’s the absolute most important thing,” Mazzulla said, “and our guys did that tonight.”

–Field Level Media

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