1. A jumbo-sized win gets a jumbo-sized version of the Takeaways! This one was a blowout from the start. The Celtics never trailed and led by as many as 24 points. The Raptors made a few mini-runs, but each time Boston scored or Brad Stevens took a timeout to slow things down.
A big part of Boston’s success against Toronto has to do with their size. Yes, the Celtics have a size advantage on the Raptors. Sure, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka tower over Boston’s bigs, but everywhere else the Celtics are similarly sized or bigger. That causes some cross-matches where Boston has the advantage both offensively and defensively.
For example, Toronto started out with Kyle Lowry guarding Jayson Tatum. Rather than cause panic trying to get matched up when the court flipped, Stevens had Tatum guard Lowry on the other end. That’s an advantage for Tatum on both ends of the floor. Look for this sort of chess match between Stevens and Nick Nurse to continue all series long.
2. We’re going to start the clips with the Celtics bigs, as both Daniel Theis and Robert Williams showed up in a big way. Theis had 13 points, 15 rebounds and two blocks, while Williams scored 10 points to go along with five rebounds and two blocks. That’s 23 points, 20 rebounds and four blocks in a combined 44 minutes. Not too shabby.
Theis showed up early on offense by driving Gasol for an and-1. This isn’t is a broken DHO or blown coverage by Toronto. It’s Theis catching and knowing he can blow by the slower Gasol:
3. As for Robert Williams, it was the typical give-and-take with the young big. He lost Serge Ibaka a few times by straying a little to far in the pick-and-pop game. He also didn’t always build to the ball in transition the way Stevens wants.
But Williams did more positive than negative. He was active on both ends of the floor. Here, Williams slips a high screen for Kemba Walker for the dunk. It’s a good read by Williams and Walker. Also, look how Boston is spaced around the perimeter. There is no chance of anyone tagging Williams on the roll:
4. A key to the early moments of the game was Pascal Siakam getting in foul trouble. Boston accomplished this a couple of different ways. We can now add Siakam to the list of bigs who have learned posting Marcus Smart isn’t a mismatch in their favor. Smart uses his quickness to beat Siakam to the spot and his strength to take the first hit before drawing the charge:
This one was a key call and really put Boston on their way to a blowout. It’s maybe a little soft, but Siakam does hit Jaylen Brown on the elbow as he shoots. The bigger thing is forcing Siakam to close out on shooters. Boston did this all game long and it’s not something the Toronto All-Star forward really wants to do. This was a big part of the Celtics getting a ton of corner threes:
5. Although Brad Stevens tried to downplay the Celtics Game 1 win and pointed out a few things he didn’t like, he’s the coach. That’s what coaches do. That said, there are a couple of minor concerns to watch moving forward. First, are turnovers. Boston was incredibly sloppy with the ball. That can’t happen and expect to win.
The second is the Celtics had some struggles against zone defense. Primarily this was early in the second quarter. This isn’t a new issue for Boston either. Expect Toronto to keep throwing various zone looks out there to challenge the Celtics.
6. Two places the Celtics excelled at defensively was on limiting the Raptors in transition and by baiting their bigs. Toronto is the NBA’s best team in transition and Boston held them to just seven fastbreak points, which is well below their season-long average of 18.8 points per game.
As far as baiting the Raptors bigs, the Celtics kept showing them stuff that seems good, but really isn’t. For example, it took Toronto over half the shot-clock to get this ball to Serge Ibaka vs Jayson Tatum in the post. That’s not a mismatch in the Raptors favor. If Boston gets beat by Ibaka post-ups, so be it:
7. Jaylen Brown didn’t have the best shooting game, but he was composed and under control. He did a lot of the initial playmaking for Boston in the halfcourt. It didn’t always result in a shot or assist for Brown, but he was hitting the paint and getting Toronto’s defense moving. On this play, Brown did pick up an assist with a pretty pocket pass off the dribble to Daniel Theis:
8. Kemba Walker played one of his best games as a Celtic. He was extremely competitive defensively and as a playmaker, but we’re going to focus on him as a scorer first. Remember how Walker destroyed Philadelphia’s drop coverage with pullup jumpers? That same look is available at times against Marc Gasol and Toronto:
And this play is just beautiful. Walker drives and kicks to Marcus Smart. Smart doesn’t panic late-clock. He sees Walker relocate against the scrambling Raptors bigs. The result is a buzzer-beater heading into halftime:
9. Speaking of offense, how nice is this move for the and-1 from Jayson Tatum? He blows by Marc Gasol (who was sucking wind early in this game), but doesn’t settle for a pullup or a floater. Tatum Eurosteps around Serge Ibaka for the hoop:
Tatum has also become one of the NBA’s best creators late in the shot-clock. Because of his size and the lift he gets on his jumper, very few guys can bother him. Tatum has the ball near halfcourt with seven seconds on the clock. No panic. Just bottom of the net:
10. Marcus Smart was everywhere. He hit a bunch of shots, which he was due for after struggling in the first round. Smart was also great defensively, as is to be expected. And he made plays as a passer too. Smart’s at his best offensively when he attacks the paint like this to open up shots for his teammates:
11. Speaking of showing up as a playmaker, Kemba Walker had a playoff career-high 10 assists. This play is great because it shows just how much defensive attention Walker attracts. It also shows off Daniel Theis’ great sense of when and where to cut:
On the very next trip, Walker hooks up with Robert Williams in pick and roll. The pass is great, but Williams probably shouldn’t be able to get a two-hand dunk over a defender when he takes off from the block. What an athlete:
12. A major concern entering the series was Boston’s bench against Toronto’s. For one game, the Celtics reserves held their own. During the competitive portion of the game, Stevens stuck with Robert Williams, Brad Wanamaker and Semi Ojeleye, minus a short cameo from Grant Williams when the Raptors played Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka together.
For the game, the Celtics bench was +5 before garbage time. That’s an unexpected bonus. If it continues, it’s going to be awfully hard for Toronto to win.
13. The Bakers Dozen concludes by asking: What’s next? Playoff series are the best because of adjustments and then the adjustments to those adjustments. Nick Nurse threw at least six different defensive looks at Boston in Game 1. Some worked, some didn’t. The important part for the Celtics is that they now have a little tape to work off of.
Expect a more competitive Game 2, but if Boston can keep slowing down Toronto in transition, it’s going to be hard for the Raptors to score. That means Nurse has to get creative on more than just defense. That’s the key to watch for in Game 2. Can Nurse find ways to create offense against a stifling Celtics defense?
Game 2 is Tuesday, September 1 at 5:30 PM ET on ESPN.