The Toronto Raptors got a peak at what life with Kristaps Porzingis could have been like as the Boston Celtics clinched a blowout victory on Saturday AARON ROSE 2 HOURS AGO
The Dallas Mavericks were scouring the league for anyone who would take on Porzingis’ contract and all indications were the Toronto Raptors were one of the teams seriously considering a blockbuster deal. Raptors general manager Bobby Webster didn’t come out and confirm Toronto’s interest, but he hinted that something big was in the works at the 2022 trade deadline before the organization decided to prioritize salary cap flexibility, ultimately working out a deal for Thad Young with the San Antonio Spurs.
In hindsight, it seems like a missed opportunity.
Porzingis isn’t quite a true NBA superstar. His defense leaves something to be desired and his injury history is alarming, but when he’s healthy, the 7-foot-3 so-called “unicorn” has become a valuable offensive weapon and a key floor spacer first for the Washington Wizards and more recently for the Boston Celtics.
On Saturday, the Raptors got a peak at what life could have been like with Porzingis as the Celtics pick-and-popped their way to a blowout 117-94 victory over Toronto whose lackluster shooting simply couldn’t keep up.
It wasn’t so much that Porzingis dominated the Raptors as much as his mere presence on the court and the threat of his three-point shot created problems for Toronto. The Celtics big man opened the game with a three-pointer over Jakob Poeltl and then drove past Toronto’s big man, using his above-average mobility for a center to beat the Raptors center to the hoop.
When Toronto adjusted, the Celtics took advantage of Poeltl’s lack of mobility, drawing the Raptors’ big man out to the perimeter and attacking the paint with Poeltl unable to contest the shot. If Boston got one-on-one opportunities against Poeltl forced to switch outside, the Celtics took advantage, toying with Toronto’s center before rising up to nail jumpers with Poeltl stuck in between playing tight and defending the paint.
Even when the Raptors could go small with their second unit, things didn’t get any better for Toronto. Precious Achiuwa struggled in his return from a lingering groin injury as the Celtics strung together a 14-0 run in the late first and early second. Sam Hauser almost single-handedly outscored Toronto’s Gary Trent Jr.-less entire second unit.
Porzingis did come alive in the third with 12 of his 21 points. He nailed a pair of three-pointers and used his mobility to connect on a pair of dunks, the first courtesy of an alley-oop pass from Jrue Holiday that allowed Porzingis to float right over Poeltl for an easy two. It stuck the Celtics to a 20-point lead from which they never looked back.
Poeltl was fine offensively as Porzingis’ counterpart and almost a mirror image offensively. He bullied Porzingis in the paint with his extra muscle and used his impressive passing to find Pascal Siakam out of the high post for a layup at the rim. While Poeltl was fine and has generally been fine for Toronto, his old-school style of play is limited in a league that’s increasingly moving toward versatile and multi-skilled big men.
Barnes had a rough night for Toronto, taking far too many three-pointers for a player who still hasn’t proven he’s a reliable three-point threat yet. Yes, Boston was giving up those shots, but there was a reason for it and Barnes was too willing to take what the Celtics were giving up. He scored just 10 points and took nine of his 15 shot attempts from three-point range, connecting on just four of his field goals Saturday.
While Porzingis’ gravity caused problems for the Raptors, it was Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown who were the biggest beneficiaries for the Celtics. The two All-NBA forwards scored 29 and 27 points, respectively, nailing three three-pointers each.
Siakam had a quieter game than Wednesday but led all Raptors with 17 points and seven rebounds.