Forty seconds into the second quarter on Tuesday night in Toronto, the Celtics led the Raptors 34-30, looking game in a place where they’d lost seven straight against a team they’re chasing for seeding in the Eastern Conference.
With 40 seconds to go in the second quarter, they’d scored just 11 more points and trailed by 21. They’d eventually lose by 23, 118-95, pulling back the score some in garbage time after a 17-2 Toronto run in the third left them down 31 three days after the also-ran Bulls had them down 25.
“Same old, same old,” coach Brad Stevens told reporters after the game. “I thought we were just outplayed in every which way.”
His players were far more succinct. Kyrie Irving, upon being asked to respond to Stevens declaring the Celtics were “taking a lot of shortcuts,” said “I don’t know. It’s up to Brad.” Marcus Morris gave it the “next question” and the “it is what it is” treatment.
Stevens’s succinctness came in the final seconds before halftime, when Jayson Tatum — called for an offensive foul — dismissively waved his hand at referee J.T. Orr and was called for a technical.
“Oh, everybody saw it. F***. Who cares?,” Stevens reacted, the outburst caught by a hot microphone.
Brad Stevens, yelling to JT Orr who just T'd up Tatum for waving at him after the offensive foul call:
"JT! Airpunch, he loses his mind, that's one thing. He waved! ….. Oh everybody saw it. F– who cares?" pic.twitter.com/kg39MBeDT9
— John Karalis ?? (@RedsArmy_John) February 27, 2019
The 31-point deficit was the Celtics’ worst since 2015. The team’s disappearances for stretches is rapidly becoming their calling card; Tuesday’s second quarter marked the 10th time this season in which they were outscored by at least 15 points, half of which have come in February. (They had 10 such quarters all last season, plus five more in the playoffs.)
With 19 games to go in the regular season, the most talented team of Stevens’s coaching career remains seeded fifth in the East.