Celtics booed, ‘punked’ in losing effort home opener

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It had been nearly 600 days since a full crowd got to watch the Celtics at the TD Garden.

But the packed house in Boston Friday night didn’t get the kind of performance it was hoping for and even expected as the Celtics got blown out in the their home opener, the visiting Raptors pulling away in the second half for the 115-83 win.

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A couple nights after thrilling, fight-to-the-finish loss in New York in double overtime, Boston was finished much earlier this time around. Though Toronto held just a 51-47 lead at halftime, the Raptors outscored the Celtics 33-17 in the third quarter to pull away for the blowout win.

And as Boston fans are wont to do, the crowd made its feelings quite clear as boos rained down on the floor at halftime and at various points in the second half for new Celtics head coach Ime Udoka’s home debut.

Not only did Udoka not defend his team against the boos, he almost embraced the crowd’s assessment of his team’s performance.

“The one thing you can’t stand as a coach is to get punked out there,” Udoka said, likewise making his feelings quite clear about the way his now 0-2 team played against Toronto. “They basically came out and punked us, outplayed us.”

One area that was evident was on the glass, where the Raptors out-rebounded the Celtics 60-42. The divide was especially glaring in terms of offensive rebounds, with Toronto notching a 21-10 advantage on the way to easy victory.

Following an historic career-best 46 points in the season-opening loss in New York, Jaylen Brown crashed back to reality against Toronto with just nine points in 28 minutes on three-of-13 shooting, including 0-for-7 from three-point land.

The Celtics didn’t have a great night behind the arc as a team, hitting 11-of-34 threes. The struggle was even uglier for the starters. Boston’s opening five went just two for 18 on threes, both makes by Jayson Tatum, who finished with a team-high 18 points.

On the other side of the court Nick Nurse’s Raptors got a game-high 25 points and 13 rebounds from rookie Scottie Barnes and another 20 points from Gary Trent Jr. to improve to 1-1 on the season.

In the end, though, this beatdown felt as much about effort as it did anything else, and that’s what drew the ire of both the crowd and the coach.

“They played harder than us,” Udoka said. “You don’t want to overreact and panic, but I said use these boos as motivation. We deserved it the way we played. Take it in, use it for fuel.”

“It’s something we need to address and I think it’s something we will,” Al Horford said of the Raptors beating the Celtics in effort as much as points. “We can’t be like that. I feel like we played hard, but it just wasn’t enough.”

After missing the opener to COVID, Horford had 11 points and 11 rebounds his first game back in a Boston uniform.

But as he noted, it wasn’t nearly enough.

First-year Celtics guard Josh Richardson – who made his Boston debut with 12 points and three rebounds in 21 minutes – had a matter-of-fact assessment of the Boston crowd booing the Celtics.

“The people in Boston know basketball,” Richardson said. “They were being honest.”

Because they honestly didn’t like what they saw from their team Friday night, and for good reason. Because they may be worried that the new-look, new-roster, new-coach Celtics may have some of the same old problems that led to a disappointing 36-36 record a year ago.

But, two games into the year, it’s way too early at this point to draw that conclusion.

The Celtics will now try to rebound and get their first win of the young season with a trip to Houston on Sunday to take on the Rockets.