The Celtics won Game 1 convincingly. They also won 3 of the 4 games this season, including the Raptors’ only loss in the seeding games. Raptors fans seemed to think that the 1:00 start was a reason for their poor showing, but 2 of the Celtics blow outs were night games and the Christmas game was the only other afternoon game.
Almost 1/4 of the Raptors points came in transition during the regular season ( 27.8 points per game according to NBA.com) The Celtics gave up only 17.7 points per game in transition in the regular season. In Game 1, the Celtics defense won out over the Raptors offense as the Celtics held them to 7 fast break points. The Celtics will need this to continue in Game 2.
The playoffs are intriguing because they become a chess match for coaches. If something didn’t work in Game 1 you might see something totally different in Game 2. Nick Nurse will definitely try to change things up for Game 2. After the Raptors got off to a very slow start in Game 1, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a change in the starting lineup.
Kyle Lowry looked to be all the way back from his sprained ankle and should be fin for this game. Oshae Brissett (knee) and Patrick McCaw (knee) are both out for the Raptors but reportedly are back in the bubble so may be close to a return.
Kemba Walker tweaked his knee in Game 1, but was a full participant in Monday’s practice and said he feels good so should be good to go for Game 2. Gordon Hayward may be back in the bubble soon but isn’t close to a return according to Brad Stevens. Javonte Green (knee) also remains out.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Kemba Walker
SG: Marcus Smart
SF: Jaylen Brown
PF: Jayson Tatum
C: Daniel Theis
Javonte Green (knee) out
Gordon Hayward (ankle) out
Probable Raptors Starters
PG: Kyle Lowry
SG: Fred VanVleet
SF: OG Anunoby
PF: Pascal Siakam
C: Marc Gasol
Kyle Lowry (ankle) questionable
Oshae Brissett (knee) outPatrick McCaw (knee) out
Jayson Tatum vs Pascal Siakam
Siakam is averaging 20.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 4.8 assists per game in the playoffs. He is shooting 41.7% from the field and 28.6% from beyond the arc. Siakam averaged 22 points in the 3 games he played in vs the Celtics in the regular season. In Game 1, however, the Celtics game plan was to limit Siakam’s contributions.
With mostly Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown and Semi Ojeleye defending him, Siakam was held to 13 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists. He shot 31.3% from the floor and was 0-3 from beyond the arc. Jayson Tatum struggled early, but finished with 21 points on 50% shooting to go with 9 rebounds. He also was 2-5 from beyond the arc. It would be nice if the Celtics can accomplish this again in this game.
Marcus Smart vs Fred VanVleet
VanVleet is averaging 21.8 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 7.8 assists in the post season. He is shooting 52.7% from the field and 55.9% from beyond the arc in the playoffs. In Game 1, the Celtics held him to just 11 points, shooting just 18.8% from the field and 18.2% on 3’s. Marcus Smart was everywhere, playing solid defense, diving for loose balls, and on the other end of the court, he led the Celtics with 21 points on 60% shooting from the field and 56% on 3’s. He also had 6 rebounds and 4 assists. If the Celtics can get the same from Marcus in this game along with limiting VanVleet once again, they would be in good shape.
Kemba Walker vs Kyle Lowry
Lowry showed no ill effects from his sprained ankle in this game and led the Raptors with 17 points, 6 rebounds and 8 assists. He is tough on defense but Kemba played well also with 18 points on 54% shooting to go with a playoff high 10 assists and 3 rebounds. The Celtics need Kemba to play well again in this game and they also need to try to limit Lowry who can come up big for the Raptors as he did in their lone win against the Celtics with 30 points.
Celtics Bigs vs Raptors Bigs Usually the Celtics bigs are a weak spot for them but not so in Game 1. Daniel Theis had 13 points, 15 rebounds and two blocks, while Williams had 10 points, 5 rebounds and 2 blocks. One of the highlights of the game was a windmill dunk from the Time Lord. Ibaka fared a little better than their other bigs with 15 points on 40% shooting with 9 rebounds. He was 3-7 from beyond the arc. Gasol struggled with 7 points and 6 rebounds and was 0-3 from beyond the arc. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ibaka in the starting lineup for Game 2 to try to get off to a better start.
Keys to the Game
Defense is always a key to winning and especially so in the playoffs. The Celtics definitely won Game 1 with their defense. Coming into Game 1, the Raptors had the 2nd best defensive rating while the Celtics were 4th. But, the Celtics upped their defensive intensity, especially in transition and the Raptors could never seem to get on track. The Raptors did have some success with a zone defense for a bit but couldn’t sustain it for any period of time. The Celtics need to be ready for that zone in this game and they also need to keep playing tough lock down defense if they want to win the series.
In each of the games between these two teams, the team that won the rebounding battle won the game. In their 3 wins this season, the Celtics out rebounded the Raptors 153-128, winning the boards in each game. In their lone loss, Toronto out rebounded the Celtics 53-31. In Sunday’s game, the Celtics out rebounded the Raptors 50-40. Next to defense, rebounding is one of the most important keys to winning.
Move the Ball Carefully
The Celtics need to move the ball and not lapse into hero ball. They have to make the extra pass and find the open man and the best shot. They have to play team ball. They also must take care of the ball. The one area that the Celtics need to clean up from Game 1 is turnovers. The Celtics had 22 turnovers to just 14 for the Raptors. The Celtics need to keep the ball moving but they also must make careful passes to keep from turning it over.
The Raptors are a very deep team. If the Celtics have one weakness, it may be production off their bench, although they did produce 41 points in Game 2 against the 76ers. In Game 1, the Celtics got enough from their bench to be able to pull away with the win, even though the Raptors bench outplayed the Celtics bench. The Celtics got 22 points and 12 rebounds from their reserves while the Raptors got 34 points and 14 rebounds from theirs. The Celtics reserves need to be able to hold their own for the Celtics to continue to win.
Coaching - The playoffs are like a giant chess game. In this series there are 2 of the top coaches in the league. Nick Nurse is the reigning coach of the year, while Brad Stevens has been one of the best coaches in the league since he took over the Celtics. Brad Stevens won the first round and I have no doubt that Nurse will come back with moves to counter the Celtics attack and defense that beat them in Game 1. It will be up to Brad to react to and counter those moves.
Confidence vs Pride - The Celtics should be a confident group going into Game 2. They have now taken 4 of 5 from the Raptors with most of those being blow outs. However, the Raptors are a proud team and won’t give up without a fight and the Celtics need to be ready to take their best shot and then play even better. But the Celtics can’t be too confident that they play less than their absolute best because regardless of what has happened between these two teams previously this year, the Raptors are dangerous and so the Celtics have to be ready for whatever they throw at them.
Officiating - Officiating is always an x-factor in every game. If you watched the first round and earlier games in the Bubble, you know that officiating can make a difference in a game. Some refs call it tight and others let them play. Some call it one sided and some call it even. Some are quick with Techs and some let them go. The Celtics have to adapt to how the game is called and not allow the officiating to take away their focus.
Tony Brothers brings angst to every team’s fan base and he is the lead ref for this game. He was voted the worst ref in the league by 24.5% of the players in their recent survey. With Brothers, you never know what you will get. Sometimes he calls everything on both teams. Sometimes he lets both teams play. And, sometimes he calls a game one sided for one of the teams. Basically, he is just bad. Hopefully we get the Tony Brothers that lets them play both ways in this game. Usually when fans of any team sees Brothers calling their games, they cringe. The other two refs, Zach Zarba and Sean Corbin are like most refs can be good or bad, but haven’t been particularly bad in most games with the Celtics.