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The Boston Celtics are in trouble.
Pascal Siakam had 25 points and eight rebounds and Kawhi Leonard added 21 points, leading the Toronto Raptors to a 118-95 win over the Celtics on Tuesday.
Boston has lost three straight and five of its last seven. The chances of Brad Stevens and Co. getting home-court advantage in a first-round series is dwindling by the day.
The Raptors have won eight of their last nine games as they try to keep pace with the Milwaukee Bucks for the East’s top seed.
Toronto built its lead on the back of an 18-0 run in the second quarter and held a double-digit lead the entire second half. The Raptors knocked down 17 threes and assisted on 33 of their 46 field goals.
Kyrie Irving finished with only seven points on 3-of-10 shooting and five assists in one of his worst performances in a Celtics uniform.
Brad Stevens Needs to Bench Terry Rozier
It’s clear Stevens has to do something to shake the cobwebs from his team. The Celtics are a low-energy, cranky, listless bunch and need something to wake them up. Irving’s leadership doesn’t appear to be doing it, and Stevens’ steadiness and calm demeanor have not resulted in this team figuring it out on its own.
Rozier isn’t the only problem with the Celtics’ bench unit. Gordon Hayward has been a $30 million albatross all season, though he’s been better of late.
That said, Rozier has been just as big of a mess this year.
The brief flashes he tends to show when in the starting lineup have obscured a legitimately bad season as he approaches free agency. Rozier’s shooting under 40.0 percent for the fourth straight year—down to 37.7 percent entering the night—and he’s been particularly bad of late. Over his last four games, Rozier has hit eight of his 34 shots and the Celtics have been outscored by 32 points when he’s on the floor.
It might be time to admit Rozier isn’t a net-positive player. He played more within himself Tuesday, but the result was an 11-point night that was largely invisible until garbage time.
Stevens should consider handing Rozier’s minutes over to Brad Wanamaker, a capable veteran guard who can knock down shots and play away from the ball. Hayward has thrived when he’s been the focal point of bench units.
Rozier was far from the only problem against the Raptors, but he’s the most expendable part of a rotation desperately in need of a wake-up call.
Marc Gasol, Jeremy Lin Make Raptors Bench Unit Most Dangerous in East
Every East contender has its strength. The Sixers have the best starting lineup. The Bucks have the MVP. The Raptors, though, have locked themselves in as the East’s deepest team after adding Marc Gasol and Jeremy Lin over the past few weeks.
Gasol offers an entirely different dynamic than Jonas Valanciunas with the second unit. Whereas Valanciunas pulled down boards and stayed near the basket in a more traditional center role, Gasol can act as the focal point of the entire offense, stretching the floor and facilitating from the elbows. He’s averaging seven assists per 36 minutes in a Raptors uniform, including an eight-dime performance Tuesday.
Lin is still finding his footing in Toronto. His 3-of-9 shooting effort was his fourth straight game under the 50 percent mark, and he’s yet to hit a three as a Raptor.
But the process is there. Lin fits within the flow of the offense, can hit an open shot and runs a slithery pick-and-pop game with Gasol.
The stretch run of the season should be about allowing these guys to figure it out. Gasol’s already there. Lin will find his groove, and that pair (along with OG Anunoby and Norman Powell) should beat out bench units in the playoffs.
The Celtics return home Wednesday to host the Portland Trail Blazers. The Raptors likewise host the Blazers on Friday.