Poor defence let the Celtics down: Coach

Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard trying to block a shot by Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart at the Scotiabank Arena on Tuesday night. The Raptors won the National Basketball Association game 118-95 to record their eight straight home victory ov
Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard trying to block a shot by Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart at the Scotiabank Arena on Tuesday night. The Raptors won the National Basketball Association game 118-95 to record their eight straight home victory over the Celtics.PHOTO: REUTERS

TORONTO • It was a case of the "same old, same old" on Tuesday night at the Scotiabank Arena.

Going into their match-up, the Toronto Raptors had won their past seven games against the Boston Celtics at home, and there was never any doubt that domination would continue with Nick Nurse's players leading by as many as 31 points during the third quarter.

The hosts coasted to a 118-95 National Basketball Association win over the visitors, extending their impressive home record to 26-6 this season and 45-17 overall, while condemning Brad Stevens' team (37-24) to their third straight loss and fifth in their last seven games.

Afterwards, the Boston coach did not mince his words, blaming the defeat on his team being "all over the place defensively".

Stevens said: "Obviously, we struggled to score in stretches. And, when I say all over the place, we were really taking a lot of shortcuts defensively.

"You can't do that against any team and, certainly tonight, they exposed us and played great. I thought we were just outplayed every way."

Admitting they "just weren't together", Celtics guard Marcus Smart, who had five points, told reporters: "I'm sure we're going to figure it out. But, right now, it's slower than expected."

While Boston struggled at both ends of the court, with Kyrie Irving in particular having an uncharacteristically off-key night after scoring only seven points, Toronto were able to ride on a 21-point performance from Kawhi Leonard.

Nurse felt the Raptors forward "had a little bit different gear in him", telling Yahoo Sports: "He was just a little bit more relaxed in general, but was still assertive, if that makes any sense.

"He was just going to take it where he wanted to take it tonight, and no one was going to do anything about it."

Pascal Siakam led all scorers with 25 points and Nurse praised how his big-name players had taken the 24-year-old Cameroon forward, who tied a career-high with four three-pointers, under their wing to improve his game.

He told Yahoo: "I give Kyle (Lowry) and Kawhi (a lot of credit). Those guys accepted a young guy coming in here, and scoring a lot of buckets and they love him.

"There's no ill will. You know they're trying to give him more (of the ball), get him more opportunities. It's pretty cool."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 28, 2019, with the headline 'Poor defence let the Celtics down: Coach'. Print Edition | Subscribe