Celtics mirror last year’s worst moments in 115-83 loss to Raptors

The Celtics achieved three things they rarely did last season before the tip-off occurred on Friday. They suited up their full lineup with the returns of Al Horford and Josh Richardson from COVID-19 and a migraine. A full crowd showered Paul Pierce in the loudest applause of the young season during a pregame NBA 75th anniversary ceremony. The presence of Satch Sanders and Pierce, among other Celtics greats, fell among the missing regular events at TD Garden last year.

Boston’s player’s greeted the mix of champions and hall-of-famers at half court pregame, then delivered a home opener effort far below that standard.

By the end of the third quarter — the Celtics trailing by 20 with the Raptors racing to open transition layups and fumbling on offense — the boos rained down like they did numerous times last season from limited fans in attendance. Sparks of momentum never lasted. Robert Williams III blocked Fred VanVleet at the three-point line during Toronto’s decisive third-quarter run, then watched the ball land back in his hands to set up a three. The Raptors pummeled the Celtics, 115-83, Boston falling to 0-2 with its worst home opener of the past decade.

The Celtics appeared different on the floor to start, and that quickly faded too. Horford entered the lineup to a raucous applause and blocked five shots in his first seven minutes. Richardson provided some spacing going 3-for-3 from three in the first half after a migraine knocked him out of opening night.

Williams III logged nine first-quarter minutes, blocking Fred VanVleet to sure up a defensive breakdown before getting some rest after nearly an hour of early-season run through five quarters and two overtimes.

Tatum shook off a rough opening night, hunting VanVleet on switches to hit runners in the lane and a tough fadeaway spinning away from the smaller Raptor on the wing. The Celtics held Toronto to 35% in the first half, but trailed by as many as 10 points and by 51-47 at halftime. The offense’s disconnectedness didn’t stray too far from last year’s worst moments in the first half, Brown attempting only four shots after his 46-point effort in New York before half.

Smart started 0-for-4 from the field, with groans flowing from the crowd on a second quarter long three from the right wing. Precious Achiuwa salvaged the few run outs he secured into a pair of easy baskets, while Smart served up VanVleet with a pass driving baseline, sending OG Anunoby out for a layup.

Toronto generated more transition looks, producing an early +10 turnover differential and grabbing 15 first half offensive boards. They built a 16-4 run on the fast break, before Dennis Schröder and Williams III chipped away with three straight scoring plays getting the big man rolling downhill. Smart found Williams III a play later soaring over Khem Birch for a three-point touch layup through the foul, but an inconsistent showing flowed into the second half.

Horford provided an initial burst with a stumbling three-point play falling into Gary Trent Jr. and sliding toward the baseline, after hitting a 14-foot jumper two players earlier. He stepped out to the perimeter and blocked Anunoby at he three-point line, his sixth, sending Tatum bursting into transition to toss a lob to Brown.

Then Tatum got called for a moving screen and tossed both hands up at mid-court, drawing a technical foul. He and three teammates surrounded an official at half court while Ime Udoka discussed with another along the sideline. Tatum stared down officials on two ensuing misses in the lane, shooting another shot banging at the basket off the shot clock and drawing no call. He smiled across half court, before finally motioning to his hip toward the official.

Udoka instituted a no-complaining rule that Grant Williams got benched for in preseason. Trailing in the third, Tatum didn’t go to the sideline until Trent returned a pair of his misses for baskets, Achiuwa broke up a Brown play and dunked in transition, then Barnes strolled into an uncontested layup after a pair of Raptors threes to go ahead 78-61. The boos began flowing and Boston’s bench shuffled in alongside Brown.

Another put-back by Barnes and a Birch finish in the lane boosted Toronto’s lead by 20 before the fourth. Some more momentum rose, with four points from Brown and a Williams III steal along the sideline. Then it fell again, with a long Brown shot finding nothing but air, a pair of turnovers from him and Schröder passing directly to Raptors and a Horford post-up pass bounced off some long arms in the lane out-of-bounds.

Tatum returned midway through the fourth with the Raptors’ disruptiveness only growing. Williams III hit front rim on a face-up floater and Smart struggled into the back court as Chris Boucher burst ahead of him for a dunk.

Enes Kanter and Juancho Hernángomez strolled to the scorer’s table soon after, and a number of fans went in the opposite direction — toward the exit signs.

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