1. Before the game, Kemba Walker was spotted checking out his teammates’ hearts. After the game, Walker was asked about it and said “I just wanted guys to be tough. We got out-toughed last game. I just wanted my guys to be tough. And they showed it. Big time.”
Toronto had just 11 points at the end of the first quarter and it didn’t get a whole lot better from there. The Raptors shot just 38.8% for the game and were 12-of-40 from behind the arc. It was as dominating a defensive performance as Boston has had this season.
2. Jaylen Brown promised to play better after a poor Game 4 and he kept that promise. Brown scored 27 points on 10-of-18 shooting. He also snagged three steals. Brown got it going early with a three-pointer on the game’s first possession:
Later in the first quarter, it felt like Brown got rid of all of his frustrations from the prior two games with this hammer dunk:
3. Brown wasn’t the only Celtic to have a bounce-back game. Brad Stevens also had one of his best games of the series. Stevens tightened up his rotation. Brad Wanamaker played 28:14 off the bench, while Grant Williams and Robert Williams split the backup minutes behind Daniel Theis. Beyond Semi Ojeleye seeing spot minutes, that was about it. 7 or so players.
But Stevens best tweak came right at the start of the game. He changed up his defensive matchup with the wings and ballhandlers. Marcus Smart guarded Kyle Lowry, while Jayson Tatum switched onto OG Anunoby and Kemba Walker picked up Fred VanVleet.
This change was big because it slowed Lowry down right from the start. Tatum was also able to play as a roamer off Anunoby. He was consistently in position to help. And Walker was competitive against VanVleet, especially in pick-and-roll actions.
4. While Kemba Walker checked his teammates hearts, he showed plenty himself. Walker started off the game by freezing Marc Gasol with a hesitation dribble to get a blow-by layup:
Walker knows how to use Serge Ibaka’s quickness against him too, as he gets him moving and stops on a dime for the pull-up:
Walker also showed up as a playmaker too, with seven assists. This beauty got Marcus Smart an easy dunk off a well-timed cut:
5. Speaking of Smart…this is just silly. He takes this ball away from Fred VanVleet as if teh Raptors guard is a small child:
Smart also made plays as a passer. First, is this terrific skip pass to get Jaylen Brown a corner three:
Toronto regularly went small with Pascal Siakam at the five. Smart reads that Daniel Theis has him sealed with no other big coming to help. The result is an easy layup for Theis:
6. It was a somewhat quiet night for Jayson Tatum, which seems odd considering he had 18 points, 10 rebounds and four assists. Tatum also got to the free throw line eight times. It’s just gotten to that point with Tatum that good games are now so commonplace that they don’t even stand out.
One of the jumpers he got to drop was this step-back over OG Anunoby:
7. Some of the lesser-celebrated Celtics had big efforts. Daniel Theis was excellent with 15 points on 5-of-5 shooting, eight rebounds and two blocks. On this play, Theis sprints the floor to get the dunk off a pass from Kemba Walker:
Later in the first quarter, Theis picks up Kyle Lowry on a switch. Theis does a great job moving his feet and then contesting Lowry’s fallaway without fouling:
8. It wasn’t night with a lot of big, explosive plays from Robert Williams. But he blew up this start-of-quarter play from Toronto by blocking a corner three from Norman Powell:
9. Brad Wanamaker is much-maligned because sometimes he’s just sort of out there. But that’s unfair criticism as Wanamaker plays exactly the role that is expected of him. In this one, Boston needed a little more scoring out of him, and Wanamaker delivered.
Midway through the second quarter, Toronto was showing signs of rallying. Wanamaker dropped in a few baskets and a couple of assists to keep Boston in front. This drive and score, over Pascal Siakam, shows the type of tough finish at the rim that Wanamaker is capable of:
10. In the end, the Celtics five starters and Wanamaker scored 108 of Boston’s 111 point. The lone basket not scored by those six was this one by Grant Williams off a nice find from Tremont Waters:
The balanced and dominant effort means the Celtics now have a chance to close out the series on Wednesday night. Game 6 will be at 6:30 PM ET on ESPN.