Raptors early-season struggles continue with loss to Celtics
Toronto falls to 1-5 to start 2020-21 campaign
Six games into the season and the Toronto Raptors have, in the words of Fred VanVleet, "a boatload of problems."
"This is probably uncharted territory for most of us," he said Monday night after the Raptors squandered another double-digit lead in falling 126-114 to the Boston Celtics, dropping their record to 1-5.
Pick your poison when it comes to Toronto's shortcomings so far this season. Erratic play, poor defence, subpar rebounding, questions about the bench. And perhaps worst of all, lack of fight.
"We just need to get a little bit more grittier, get a little bit more tougher and a little bit more nastier, and have a little bit of a swag[ger] to us," said a subdued Kyle Lowry.
WATCH | Tatum, Celtics top Raptors:
"Right now we have no swag[ger] to us. Right now we have nothing. There's nothing to us. Teams are looking at us like 'All right, let's go eat.' And that's not a good feeling."
Jayson Tatum scored 40 points as the Celtics, rallying from a first-half deficit, piled on Toronto's early-season misery. The Raptors got off to a hot start with signs that Pascal Siakam might be emerging from his early-season funk. But it turned into merely another blown double-digit lead.
Only the Detroit Pistons (1-6) have a worse record than Toronto.
The Raptors play next at Phoenix on Wednesday, the first leg of a four-game road trip that also includes stops in Sacramento, Golden State and Portland
Toronto's 13-point advantage with a little more than four minutes remaining in the first quarter turned into a 15-point deficit at the half as Boston outscored the Raptors 38-14 in the second quarter for a 61-46 edge.
Tatum led the way with 21 points in a second quarter that saw Toronto make just 5-of-24 shots while missing all six three-point attempts.
The Celtics, who won despite making 20 turnovers to Toronto's 10, led by as many as 23 in the third and were up 100-81 going into the fourth.
A late 11-0 Raptors run cut Boston's lead, once as high as 26 points, to 10 points with less than three minutes remaining, prompting the Celtics to reinsert some of their starters.
Jayson Tatum posts his 3rd career 40-Pt game, the most by a Celtics player before turning 23 in team history. <a href="https://t.co/tF4UMyuEY7">pic.twitter.com/tF4UMyuEY7</a>—@ESPNStatsInfo
Tatum was one off his career high of 41 when he went to the bench early in the fourth. Payton Pritchard, a rookie from Oregon, had 23 points and eight assists off the bench while Jaylen Brown added 19 for Boston (5-3).
Boston's bench outscored the Raptors reserves 60-29. Take away Terence Davis's 4-of-8 shooting and the Toronto bench made 4-of-21 shots.
Coach Nick Nurse was blunt in his takeaway from the night.
"Tonight I didn't learn anything. I didn't learn anything other than we've got to compete harder," Nurse said.
"Hopefully this is not who we're going to be, because we have fought really hard in four of the first five [games]. But we just didn't fight hard enough tonight in the middle of the game."
VanVleet led the Raptors with 35 points, one off his career high. Siakam finished with 22 while Lowry added 18.
VanVleet made 13-of-20 shots. The rest of the Raptors were a combined 23-of-70.
"It's a long season, man," VanVleet said. "We've got to stay confident and keep believing in ourselves and in each other. And we'll work our way out of it."
Prior to the game, Nurse pointed the finger at his team's lack of defence and rebounding, saying both had to improve. They didn't on the night.
Boston had a 56-37 edge in rebounds with VanVleet, listed at six foot one, leading Toronto with eight rebounds.
And Nurse lamented his team's inability to defend or ratchet up the degree of difficulty of Boston's shots.
"It's on everybody, myself included, that we're not guarding. It's not any one person in particular. It seems to be spreading," he added.