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Raptors 113, Celtics 103

Raptors flex muscles, beat Celtics

Celtics guard Marcus Smart was looking for a call after draining a shot in the second quarter. Barry Chin/Globe Staff

After the Celtics closed the regular season with momentum and then added complementary pieces to their young core, computer models and prognosticators began to fawn over them. In some corners, they have even become a popular pick to win the Atlantic Division. But on Friday night, the Raptors provided a not-so-subtle reminder that that road to that crown will still go through Canada.

Toronto was more aggressive, more smooth, and more comfortable, and its 113-103 victory at TD Garden showed that a gap remains between these teams, at least for now.

“We’re not as good as these guys right now,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “I think that was pretty evident and clear for everyone to see. And so we’ll see if we can improve.”


The loss came on the heels of Boston’s feel-good win over the lowly 76ers on opening night, but it was quite obvious that the Raptors are not the 76ers. If the Celtics are to ascend into the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference, they understand that performances like this one will not suffice.

They shot 37.6 percent from the field and 26.9 percent from behind the 3-point line. They were outrebounded, 53-38, and they committed 17 turnovers.

Yes, there will be nights when shots do not fall and opponents do not wilt. But for the Celtics, it might be concerning that as their missteps mounted, the effects seemed to weigh on them.

“I think this is our first game where our body language was not really good,” point guard Isaiah Thomas said. “Guys were missing shots in the third and fourth quarter and putting their head down. We can’t have that . . . That’s signs of an immature team, a young team. We’ve got to be bigger than that.”

Thomas said that Stevens even brought up this uneasy body language during several huddles, urging his players to regain their focus.


Aside from Thomas, the Celtics do not really have players who are capable of consistently dominating in one-on-one situations. So they will rely on each other. They will rely on quick, crisp passes that leave a defense off balance.

“The ball stopped moving, and that’s hard on our team,” guard Avery Bradley said. “The ball has to move. It gives everyone confidence and makes everyone feel involved, and I feel like that’s the best basketball for the Celtics.”

Instead of a flurry of decisive and in-control passes, the Celtics sometimes looked disjointed as they probed Toronto’s defense.

“We’re not moving the ball as well as we need to, and we’re not taking care of the ball as well as we need to,” Stevens said. “That’s been, for 96 minutes, consistent, so that’ll be a telltale thing for our team. If we turn the ball over like this, we won’t have a very good year. If we start valuing it a little better, we’ll be better.”

DeMar DeRozan had 23 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists to lead the Raptors. Terrence Ross had 21 points, including 13 during one torrid seven-minute stretch at the start of the fourth quarter. Thomas paced the Celtics with 25 points and 7 assists.

For most of the first half, the game lacked much flow, as the teams cycled to the free throw line for a total of 43 shots. Stevens was concerned at halftime when he saw that the game was tied despite the fact that the Raptors had shot just 32 percent from the field.


“That,” Stevens said, “usually doesn’t bode well.”

And sure enough, Toronto found its rhythm in the third quarter. With the Celtics leading, 60-58, Toronto unspooled a 24-8 run that included three 3-pointers.

Thomas provided a glimmer of hope for Boston as he made a pair of layups in the final minute of the period to pull his team within 83-74. But Ross took over in the fourth, using a sparkling mixture of jump shots to extend the lead.

A fadeaway jump shot by DeRozan with 4:05 left gave the Raptors a 107-88 edge, their largest. The Celtics sliced the lead to 9 on a Bradley 3-pointer with 1:54 left, but it was too late.

“We can’t let teams just come in here and do whatever they want to do,” Bradley said, “and I feel like that’s what they did tonight.”

As will so often be the case during this long and winding season, the chance for redemption comes quickly. Bradley said that when Stevens entered the locker room after the game, the first thing he told the team was to shift the focus toward Sunday’s game here against the Spurs.

Of course, San Antonio is so talented that a similar performance by the Celtics would most likely end with a similar result.

Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at adam.himmelsbach@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @adamhimmelsbach.