If Tuesday night’s matchup is any indication of how the Eastern Conference will shake out down the stretch, the Boston Celtics are in trouble.
The Raptors completely dominated the struggling Celtics 118-95 to send a message to a team that entered the season as one of the favorites to come out of the East. Now, the Celtics are a team looking for answers.
“We have to be a lot more connected as a team,” said coach Brad Stevens. “That’s been a theme for a while.”
Marcus Smart, who finished with five points and was a team-worst minus-25 on the game, echoed that sentiment.
''Nobody is together. We've got to have everybody on the same page, doing the same things at the same time.''
The Celtics were most out of sync in a brutal second quarter, when Toronto built a 31-point lead by outscoring Boston 36-13. One exchange in the quarter didn’t sit well with Smart, who was waiting on the wing for what might have been a wide-open corner 3. Instead, Jaylen Brown drove down the lane, leading to a charge and a furious Smart.
Kyrie Irving, who was held to seven points on 3-for-10 shooting, wouldn’t comment on Smart’s assessment.
''That's Marcus' opinion,'' said Irving, who has drawn his own heat lately for some of his comments in relation to teammates.
At 37-24, the Celtics currently sit fifth in the Eastern Conference, 9.5 games behind first-place Milwaukee and reeling after losses to the Bulls and now the Raptors, who extended their home dominance over the Celtics to eight straight, a streak that dates back to April 4, 2015.
Boston gets a chance to bounce back Wednesday at home against the Trail Blazers, who had their own troubles Tuesday, with several members spending 30 minutes stuck in an elevator in Beantown.
Break up the Knicks
The Knicks are on a roll, and the Garden was rockin’ again Tuesday night. Thanks to a massive effort from its reserves, New York rallied to beat the Magic 108-103 for its first two-game winning streak since November.
No Knicks starter scored in double digits, but the bench stepped up in a big way. The reserves scored 75 points as coach David Fizdale found a spark that ignited Madison Square Garden.
Henry Ellenson, fresh off signing a 10-day contract last week, had a huge night in his second game as a Knick with 13 points, nine rebounds and five assists in a career-high 36 minutes.
“We just fought,” Ellenson said in a walkoff interview after the whistle. “I just want to make the most of it.”
The Knicks, who ended an 18-game home losing streak Sunday by beating the Spurs, outscored the Magic 30-13 in the fourth quarter to pull off the win.
If the Knicks are playing for this summer’s No. 1 draft pick, you couldn’t tell it by the effort and vibe in Madison Square Garden on Tuesday.
No Jokin' around in Denver
Jokic was huge in Tuesday’s nightcap, just missing a triple-double with 36 points, nine rebounds and 10 assists to lead the Nuggets to a 121-112 win over the Thunder. Jokic drew M-V-P chants from the home crowd and even stepped up in the final minute, showing no hesitation when the ball became lodged on top of the backboard.
Stat of the Night
Knicks rookie Mitchell Robinson is putting up some big numbers on both ends of the floor lately, putting him in some elite company:
Dunk of the Night
Paul George gets the nod tonight, thanks to this ferocious jam alone on the break.
Stat of the Night, II
The Celtics had twice as many turnovers in the second quarter (8) as made baskets (4).
Dish of the Night
Kyrie Irving didn't have the best night in Boston's blowout loss, but his handles were still on full display.
Ask, and you shall receive
Kyle Lowry is clearly a man of the people.
If the Playoffs started today ...
Here's the Playoff Picture after Tuesday's action: