The Celtics enter Game 5 after being outworked by the Raptors in Game 4. After going up 2-0, the Raptors looked defeated and the Celtics looked poised for a sweep. Then they slacked off on defense for just 5 tenths of a second in Game 3 and the momentum of the series changed. In Game 4, the Raptors looked energized and the Celtics looked lethargic and tired and now the series is tied and the Raptors have all the momentum.
The Raptors are 7-2 in Game 5’s all time when the series is tied 2-2. The Celtics are 32-13 in Game 5’s all time when the series is tied 2-2. The Celtics had vowed to come out strong in Game 4 and reclaim the momentum, but instead, they looked a step slow the entire game and they struggled to hit open shots, hitting just 20% of their 3 pointers. They also struggled on defense and allowed the Raptors to take 37 open 3’s of which they hit 38.6%.
Both teams are relying on their starters and had key starters play more than 40 minutes in Game 4. Brad Stevens played 9 players while Nick Nurse played 7 with an 8th playing just 3 minutes. Kyle Lowry played over 46 minutes in Game 3 and came back to play almost 44 minutes in Game 4. In both games, he willed his team to get the win.
The Raptors are a very tough team and they play hard on every possession. The Celtics need to keep in the back of their minds the fact that the Raptors were down 0-2 to the Bucks last season and came back to beat the Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals. They are not going to lay down and so the Celtics are going to have to take this series with effort and toughness.
Gordon Hayward was reported to have returned to the bubble on Sunday but is not ready to return and will likely miss the rest of this series. Javonte Green is still out with the knee injury and Vincent Poirier is still out for the birth of his child. Patrick McCaw (knee) and Oshae Brissett (knee) remain out for the Raptors.
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
Victor Poirier (personal) out
Probable Raptors Starters
PG: Kyle Lowry
SG: Fred VanVleet
SF: OG Anunoby
PF: Pascal Siakam
C: Marc Gasol
Oshae Brissett (knee) out
Patrick McCaw (knee) out
Kemba Walker vs Kyle Lowry
Kyle Lowry has willed his team to win their last 2 games. He has played the hardest and most minutes of any player on either team. On Saturday he finished with 22 points, 11 rebounds, and 7 assists and shot 40% from beyond the arc. Kemba Walker took just 9 shots on Saturday and has vowed to be more assertive in this game and the Celtics will need that from him. The Celtics must slow Lowry down as the team takes its lead from him.
Marcus Smart vs Fred VanVleet
In Game 1, the Celtics held VanVleet to just 11 points, shooting just 18.8% from the field and 18.2% on 3’s. He played a little better in Game 2 with 19 points, 5 rebounds and 7 assists. In Game 3, he found his shot and finished with 25 points, 3 rebounds and 6 assists. In Game 4, he finished with 17 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists and shot 45.5% from beyond the arc. Marcus Smart was a difference maker on both ends of the court in Games 1 and 2. But, he struggled in Games 3 and 4, shooting just 25% in Game 4. Smart needs to once again become a difference maker for the Celtics to win this one.
Jaylen Brown vs Pascal Siakam
Brown has been the primary defender on Siakam for this series. In Games 1, 2 and 3 he kept Siakam from making any difference for the Raptors to the point where Raptors fans were ready to cut him. Jaylen has also been a difference maker on the offensive end through the first 3 games. In Game 4, however, Jaylen struggled on both ends of the court. Siakam finished with 23 points, 11 rebounds and 2 assists and shot 43.5% from the field. Jaylen had just 14 points and shot 22% from the field and 18% from beyond the arc. For the Celtics to win, they need Jaylen Brown to get back to playing like he did in the first 3 games.
Robert Williams vs Serge Ibaka
Ibaka is the main player off the Raptors bench. He played 22 minutes in Game 4 and finished with 18 points, and 7 rebounds. He shot 77.8% from the field and 100% (4-4) from beyond the arc. He played well on both ends of the court. Robert Williams has played well for the Celtics so far and although he won’t put up big numbers and isn’t a threat from the outside, he does make a difference on defense. He must keep Ibaka from having another big game in this one.
Keys to the Game
Defense is always a key to winning and especially so in this series. Both the Celtics and Raptors pride themselves on playing tough lock down defense. The Raptors have been able to throw different defensive looks at the Celtics and it has thrown them off somewhat. In Game 3, half a second of bad defense by the Celtics changed the whole feel of the series. In Game 4, the Celtics struggled on the defensive end, allowing the Raptors to shoot 38.6% from beyond the arc while the Raptors held them to 20%. The Celtics must make defense a priority and especially defend the Raptors in transition. They must start the game with tough defense and not let up until the final buzzer.
Much of rebounding is effort and desire. The Celtics have won the rebounding battle in all but one of their games against the Raptors this season. The out rebounded the Raptors 45-41 on Saturday but the key number is that Toronto had 8 offensive rebounds that they turned into 24 second chance points. The Celtics had just 12 second chance points. They have to work harder to grab rebounds and to convert those rebounds into points. When the Celtics put out extra effort on the boards, it usually carries over into other parts of their game.
Move the Ball Carefully
The Celtics had just 18 assists as a team on Saturday while the Raptors had 23 assists. The Celtics are best when they move the ball and find the open man and play as a team. As they got frustrated on Saturday, we saw too much hero ball as each player tried to hit the home run. They need to play as a team and share the ball. But they also need to take care of the ball as they have committed more turnovers than the Raptors in each of the first 4 games.
Focus and Effort
The Celtics were out worked in Game 4 and they were a step slow the entire game. The Raptors made most of the 50-50 plays and hustled more on both ends of the court. The Raptors just wanted it more. Also, the Celtics did not seem focused. They missed 5 of 21 open threes and shot just 20% from beyond the arc for the game. They also missed 7 free throws, which is a sign that their focus was not there. They need to come into this game focused and ready to out work the Raptors and be the more aggressive team on both ends of the court.
The 3 Point Game
The Celtics’ 3 points percentage has steadily gone down through the first 4 games from 44% to 40% to 31% to 20%. On the other hand, the Raptors’ 3 point percentage has gone up from 25% to 38% to 33% to 39%. In their last 2 wins, the Raptors has had 4 players shoot over 40% from beyond the arc while the only Kemba (4-7) and Semi (1-1) were above 40% in Game 3 and Brad Wanamaker (1-2) was above 40% in Game 4. The Celtics have to be focused on making their 3’s if they want the momentum to turn back in their direction.
Coaching - The playoffs are like a chess match with each coach having to make adjustments and then having to adjust to the other teams’ adjustments. In Games 3 and 4, Nick Nurse was the coach to make the winning adjustments. Brad Stevens has to find a way to counter the zone defenses that have given the Celtics problems and he needs to find a way to get his team focused and playing better defense.
Momentum- The Celtics had the momentum going their way after winning the first two games. They were half a second from an insurmountable 3-0 lead in the series and then one shot swung the momentum Toronto’s way. They road that momentum to a win in Game 4. Now the Celtics must find a way to dig down deep and play harder and more focused than the Raptors to get the momenrum back in their direction.
Officiating - Officiating is always an x-factor in every game. It’s hard to tell how a crew will call the game. They could call it tight or they could let them play. They could try to extend the series or call it straight. The Celtics struggled with foul trouble in Game 4 and they need to try to avoid fouling, especially early in the game. None of the refs for this game stand out as either good or bad other than the fact that Kane Fitzgerald is the only ref to eject LeBron. However it is called, the Celtics will need to adapt and not allow the refs to take them out of their game and affect their focus.