Toronto Raptors: Will Celtics win provide necessary spark?

TORONTO, ON - MARCH 18: Kyle Lowry
TORONTO, ON - MARCH 18: Kyle Lowry /

With the vital win against the Boston Celtics, the Toronto Raptors need to let it galvanize them as they prepare for the most important postseason in franchise history.

The relief was palpable among Toronto Raptors players and fans alike, as the final second ticked off the clock at the ACC on Wednesday night. It arguably overshadowed the euphoria of a vital 96-78 win over the Boston Celtics.

Of course the victory was important, to establish a three-game lead over the Celtics in the East, with just four contests remaining. However, it was also necessary to help the Raptors emerge from a funk which had seen them lose three of their previous four.

Fair or not, the recent bad run of form has intensified the criticism from doubters, who do not believe Toronto has the mental fortitude to deliver in crunch time. Or more specifically, during the upcoming playoffs.

In truth, the narrative has been there for some time, given the up and down performances of the likes of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry in recent years. As clutch as the All-Star duo are during the regular season, this is replaced by inconsistency come playoff time.

The doubts about the Raptors’ ability to deliver when the pressure is turned up a notch, only seemed to intensify after the first quarter on Wednesday night. Down 20-14, fans were concerned the recent slump was going to continue and their team’s lead in the East would be whittled down to a solitary game.

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Instead, the Raptors finally woke up in the second quarter to display some of the much-needed heart and grittiness. Led by one of their best defensive efforts of the season, they outscored the Celtics 82-58 over the final 36 minutes.

The defensive effort was vital, given the Raptors struggled at the other end of the court. DeRozan led the team with just 16 points, which is magnified even more when noting it came on just 6-of-17 from the field.

Delon Wright provided some spark off the bench. He ended the night leading the team with nine boards and eight assists, while adding eight points.

Coach Dwane Casey discussed the impressive defence and misfiring offence with the media. As reported by the Toronto Sun‘s Ryan Wolstat, Casey said:

"“There’s nights you’re not going to be able to make shots. One thing you can do, you can control how hard you play, how hard you compete defensively, how hard you run the floor, those things you can control. And run both ways, offensively and defensively.”"

Despite the win, Casey appreciates the Raptors still have a lot of work to do. As reported by Doug Smith of the Toronto Star, he said:

"“You’re not excited, you know you’ve got some other games to go, we’ve got some other things to get better at, looking at a big picture. This is one game, we still have some things to get better at.”"

In respect of the big picture, you have to wonder if the Raptors actually want to finish first in the Eastern Conference? Regardless of how much confidence they may have in their abilities, the easier path you can have to the Finals, the better.

For example, as things stand, the Raptors are where they want to be. Playing the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round and missing the Cleveland Cavaliers until the Eastern Conference Finals (assuming both teams advance).

However, with the standings so finely balanced, this scenario could easily change. Next thing you know, Toronto could be facing the Washington Wizards in the first round, potentially followed by the Cavaliers in round two.

Admittedly, this says more about my faith — or lack thereof — in the Raptors. As the saying goes, if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best.

In any event, these are thoughts that should be saved for another day. For now, all that matters is the Raptors are in a much healthier position that they were 24 hours ago.

And if we’re honest, before the season no one truly expected them to be at the top of the East at this stage of the campaign. Now, lets see if the Toronto Raptors can use the Celtics win to provide the necessary spark to galvanize themselves.

Next: No more complaints about Raptors lacking respect

What’s your take on the Celtics win? How confident are you in the Toronto Raptors moving forward? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.