What a difference five days and five hundred miles make. On Saturday night in TD Garden, the Celtics were 7-for-17 from behind the arc with only five turnovers. Those numbers cratered on the second night of a back-to-back in Toronto. Boston made only three of their 22 threes and they coughed up the ball 16 times for 29 points off TO’s. That’s the ball game.
In the end, the Celtics and Raptors split the season series with both teams winning both home games. It’s hard to really judge or predict what an Eastern Conference Finals could look like based on the games. They’re small sample sizes where the variances are off the charts. Kyrie Irving only competed in one of them, the February 20-point blowout in Toronto. Marcus Smart only played in the nail biter in Boston back in November. The Celtics shot so dramatically worse in the Air Canada Centre (36.7% vs. 42.9% at home). However, in a seven game series, some issues could start trending.
It starts with the bench. Toronto boasts the best second unit in the NBA. Wednesday night, the margin between the benches might have not seemed so wide (44 vs. 43 points), but Boston’s production came mainly from Marcus Morris (21) and Greg Monroe (17). The Raptors’ bench, on the other hand, is Spursian. The Raptors have four players that average between 4 to 10 points against the Celtics and any one of them could go off and win a playoff game for The North. On Wednesday night, it was Fred VanVleet’s fifteen points and mastery of the pick-and-roll.
It’s one game after a long season and the Celtics were extremely short handed. If the two teams do meet in May, Irving and Smart could conceivably be back by mid-May. That second quarter scoring drought could have been solved with some Kyrie magic. Smart could have prevented some of VanVleet and Delon Wright’s 12 assists. You just never know. The Celtics will enter the playoffs as the #2 seed in the East, but like Jaylen Brown said, “I feel like we’re the #1 team.”