The Boston Celtics hung around for the first 24 minutes in their home opener, trailing the Toronto Raptors by only four points entering the half. However, come the third quarter, things quickly began to spiral in the wrong direction for the C’s — and the TD Garden fans weren’t shy in letting them know about it.
Boston went on to be outscored by 28 points in the second half, finished the game with 25 turnovers, and was booed at the final buzzer after notching their first 0-2 start to a season since 2017-18.
“That’s as ugly as it can get,” head coach Ime Udoka informed reporters following the loss. “One thing I can’t stand as a coach is getting punked out there. I felt they basically came out and punked us, outplayed us, played harder than us, all the things we talked about.”
Udoka Questions Celtics’ Effort Level
A 115-83 beatdown will rarely be well received by a home fanbase, especially when their team’s effort doesn’t exactly pass the eye test. Coming off a double-overtime loss to the Knicks, the Cs clearly lacked intensity vs. Toronto, something that “irritated” the first-year head coach, per Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe.
“It is an effort thing. We stressed it. [The Raptors] had nineteen [offensive rebounds] in their first game. That’s who Toronto is. They play hard, so we really stressed that if we don’t bring the intensity against these guys, it could get ugly,” Udoka said of the Raptors.
As for the boos raining down from the rafters, Udoka believes they were well warranted.
“They know it’s a passionate crowd. You take that, embrace it, and use it as fuel. We deserved it by the way we played,” Udoka admitted. “I think our guys all know that and that’s what we appreciate about the fan base. They’re going to be honest about our effort.”
While it’s been a less than stellar start to the season, Boston’s two losses are nothing more than a simple blip on the radar of what is an 82-game marathon. For reference, the last time they started a season 0-2, they proceeded to rally off 16 consecutive victories and finish second in the Eastern Conference with a record of 55-27. In other words, no need to hit the panic button just yet.
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Al Horford Shines in Return
One lone bright spot on the night for Boston was the performance of veteran big man Al Horford. In his first regular-season game as a member of the Celtics since April of 2019, the 15-year veteran returned from COVID-19 to tally a double-double (11 points and 11 rebounds) in 25 minutes.
“I was just happy to get back out there with the group in front of our home crowd here tonight,” said Horford. “I’ll have to continue to get to where I need to be as far as my wind and all that stuff. But I felt fine. Was definitely a little tired at times there, but it was just good to be back playing with the group.”
After some debate regarding Horford’s role lingering through the preseason, the five-time All-Star garnered the start against the Raptors and will likely continue to roam Boston’s starting frontcourt alongside Robert Williams for the foreseeable future.