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Bostoon's Jayson Tatum disputes a foul during the Celtics disappointing home-opening to the Toronto Raptors at TD Garden on Friday night.
Bostoon's Jayson Tatum disputes a foul during the Celtics disappointing home-opening to the Toronto Raptors at TD Garden on Friday night.Maddie Meyer/Getty

It was apparent from the tip the Celtics would struggle with Toronto’s physicality and athleticism. The Raptors, despite losing their home opener by 15 points, were going to be a major challenge Friday at TD Garden.

On a night when Boston greats Paul Pierce and Danny Ainge were honored prior to the game, the Celtics relented to Toronto’s constant pressure and harassment in the third quarter. They stopped chasing loose balls, put their heads down when shots didn’t fall, and were bullied and shoved around by a team that obviously wanted to win more.

The Celtics’ embarrassing 115-83 loss was a byproduct of a lack of effort, which is a major concern for new coach Ime Udoka, at the helm of his second game. Toronto is picked to perhaps make a run at the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference but the Raptors are filled with long, rangy players and they made the Celtics feel uncomfortable all night.

Boston responded with about 2½ quarters of fight, which isn’t close to good enough. It’s one thing to lose a game on a poor shooting night; it’s another to lose because you relented when the moment called for more intensity and passion.


Udoka, who has preached a new attitude, harder coaching, and more accountability since taking over, looked horrified at times on the bench. Scottie Barnes, in his second NBA game, sprinted unimpeded to the basket in one sequence, slammed home a miss, and then screamed as loudly as he could. Gary Trent Jr. found gaps in the Celtics defense for easy layups.

“I said that to the group, is one thing I can’t stand is to get punked out there,” Udoka said. “I felt they basically came out there and punked us, outplayed us, played harder than us. You don’t want to overreact and panic and we’re going to stay together and keep our heads up but I said use these boos as motivation. We deserved it, the way we played.”


The Celtics played as if they didn’t want to be there in the fourth quarter. This new season has created so much excitement because of the management changes and roster reconstruction. Last year’s Celtics often played this way, with fleeting passion and fortitude.

While Udoka is still trying to figure out rotations and settle on a lineup that has been hindered by injuries and COVID 19, he has to be concerned that effort is an issue in Game No. 2. He has to be concerned that as has been their pattern, the Celtics play harder when shots are falling and play discouraged and listless when they don’t.

The Celtics committed a whopping 25 turnovers, were outscored 64-36 in the second half, and the TD Garden crowd, most with the Red Sox game streaming on their phones, regretted their decision to head to the Garden instead of watching the Sox from home. They booed in the second quarter and then again in the third quarter when the Raptors turned a 2-point lead into 20 in a seven-minute span.

The Celtics richly deserved that reaction. There was no reason they should be getting humiliated with their talent. The Raptors shot in the 30 percentile throughout most of the game and even worse from the 3-point line, so this wasn’t a case of running into a team with a torrid shooting night. The Celtics just got outworked, outhustled, and outclassed.


They lost because they didn’t play hard enough. It happens in the NBA, but usually when a team is in the final game of a long road trip or fatigue issues, but this is Game No. 2. Effort isn’t supposed to be an issue. Discouragement shouldn’t come this early.

“I think it’s something we need to address,” forward Al Horford said. “We can’t be like that. I felt like we played hard, it just wasn’t enough. I think that earlier we were right there, ‘Oh we’re going to break through offensively’ but we never did. And that started to affect our defense.”

The Celtics can’t only be engaged when they score well. Jaylen Brown scored 46 points in the season-opening loss to the Knicks and then scored 9 on Friday. But he also committed five turnovers and didn’t impact the game defensively.

Again, it’s only Game No. 2, but losing a winnable game in double overtime followed by a blowout loss at home is not an ideal beginning to the Udoka tenure. The question now is how will they respond? How does Udoka deal with the issues that have obviously carried over from last season?

The Celtics can go either two ways: they can either use this as motivation to take every game seriously, and understand how difficult it is to win in the NBA consistently or continue with these ways and just consider this an aberration.


Leadership is key. Horford said the issue is going to be addressed as the team flies to Houston on Saturday, but it’s up to Brown and Jayson Tatum to determine the fate, how they come out Sunday against the Rockets,a team with a bunch of hungry young players, just like the Raptors.

“We were too relaxed,” Tatum said. “They just lost on their home court, we should have expected more of a punch from them. That’s on myself. That’s on everybody. It’s all about how you respond. Are we going to come back on Sunday with a different mindset, more life, more energy, and ready to get our first win?”

Gary Washburn is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at gary.washburn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GwashburnGlobe.