With 1:12 left in the third quarter of the Toronto Raptors’ blowout loss to the Boston Celtics in Game 5 Monday night, frustrations started to boil over for the defending champions.
Raptors guard Kyle Lowry committed a personal foul on Boston’s Jayson Tatum, sending him to the line. Lowry had a little something extra to say and earned a technical foul after Tatum’s first free throw.
That’s when Lowry’s teammate Serge Ibaka yelled out toward Lowry, “Come on man, we’re losing!” as he walked away from the paint. Raptors guard Fred VanVleet calmed down Ibaka immediately, but the reality of the situation was real.
Toronto was losing by 25 and it was symbolic of the frustrations the team was facing as the Raptors went down 3-2 in the conference semifinals.
“Kyle had his moment with the ref. Serge had his moment with Kyle. But we moved on, we moved past it. It happens. We’re brothers,” VanVleet said. “It’s a lot at stake. There’s a lot on the line. Those type of things are going to happen. But it wasn’t as bad as it looked, I can tell you that much. That’s an everyday thing on our team. Guys just being honest. We have a lot of passionate guys. It’s just part of the process.”
VanVleet said the situation probably was enhanced because of the bubble atmosphere without fans in the arena.
“Those frustrations happen all the time,” he added. “You guys don’t see a lot of them. But that was one that was obviously visible and you could probably hear a little bit there if you were in the arena. Just some frustrations with the game.
“Nobody was happy. Obviously with the way we played, everybody was frustrated. But you have your moment and you move on and you keep playing after that.”
What’s at stake for Toronto is possible elimination with one more loss to Boston.
Last season, on their way to the NBA championship, the Raptors fell behind in three of their four series and we’re tied 1-1 in the NBA Finals against the Warriors. But never were they one game away from being bounced like they are now.
It’s the second blowout loss of the series for Toronto — and third in the bubble, going back to the seeding games. The Raptors started out Monday’s loss with an 11-point first quarter even though they were getting the looks coach Nick Nurse wanted.
“They were comfortable,” Lowry said. “Our offense, we didn’t make shots, we were not aggressive enough. They were very comfortable from the jump.”
Lowry was quick to dismiss any concern that the Raptors’ slow start had anything to do with the heavy minutes they had been playing. Entering the game, VanVleet, Lowry and Pascal Siakam all were averaging at least 40.0 minutes per game and OG Anunoby wasn’t far behind at 38.1.
If the Raptors want another chance to try and defend their title, they won’t be able to afford another start like they had in Game 5. But for Lowry, that doesn’t mean forgetting the game.
“You never flush it; you learn from it,” Lowry said. “Every single game is a different game. Game 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, now have been different games. Playoffs. You learn from it. Make adjustments, and continue to grow, and figure it out. Right now we are in a brink of elimination, literally fighting for our lives right now on the basketball floor. It’s win or go home.”
The Raptors’ stint in Florida has lasted two weeks longer than any other team in the bubble because the team went to Fort Myers in late June to start preparations before the July start.
If they want to extend their stay even more, they’ll have to make it past Game 6.
“We’re really good at bouncing back,” Nurse said. “It’s strange to me that we have these kinds of games. It really is. But historically we have. And then historically we really usually bounce back in a big way.”
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