After losses in Games 3 and 4, the Celtics bounced back in a big way and beat the Raptors 111-89 in Game 5. This is the 5th time in franchise history that the Celtics have begun the playoffs 7-2 or better. The other times were 1961,1964, 1969, and 1986. In each of those 4 years, the Celtics went on to win the Championship.
Statistically, the Celtics are in a good place. The winner of Game 5 goes on to win the series 82% of the time. But to say that these playoffs are different from any that have been played in league history would be an understatement. That statistic factors in home court advantage, which has meant nothing in these playoffs. The “road” team has won every game in this series so far and, in that sense, this is a road game for the Raptors.
The Celtics are 6-3 so far this season vs the Raptors. They won the season series 3-1, including handing the Raptors their only loss in the seeding games. They are up 3-2 in this round of the playoffs so far. 4 of those 6 wins have been by 15 or more points. The Raptors have won their 3 games by 16 points, 7 points, and 1 point.
The Raptors are a very tough team and they play hard on every possession. They were down 0-2 to the Bucks last season and came back to beat the Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals. They are going to fight and scrap every inch of the way and the Celtics must be tougher and play harder and and give another effort like they did in Game 5 if they want to win this series.
Serge Ibaka left Game 5 with a sprained ankle and was seen at the Tuesday media availability in a walking boot. His status is questionable for this game. If he can’t go, or is limited, Robert Boucher and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson should see more minutes. Patrick McCaw (knee) and Oshae Brissett (knee) remain out for the Raptors.
Gordon Hayward s back in the bubble but is still in quarantine and is not expected to be back on the court to play unless the Celtics advance. Vincent Poirier is listed as day to day after leaving the bubble for the birth of his child. Javonte Green remains out with the knee injury.
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) day to day
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
Serge Ibaka (ankle) questionable
Marcus Smart vs Kyle Lowry
Kyle Lowry willed his team to their 2 wins in this series. He has played the hardest and most minutes of any player on either team. In their 2 wins he averaged 26.5 points and 7.5 assists. Brad Stevens made the adjustment to put Marcus Smart (who just made his second straight 1st Team All Defense) on Kyle Lowry as the primary defender. This turned out to be a very good decision as Lowry had just 10 points and 5 rebounds, shooting 38% from the field and 33% from beyond the arc, and he never could quite get going. Lowry said several times after Game 5 that he needed to be more aggressive in Game 6 and so Marcus needs to be ready for him and slow him down once again.
Kemba Walker vs Fred VanVleet
In Game 5, VanVleet had 18 points, 2 rebounds and 5 assists. He shot 43% from the field and 29% from beyond the arc. Kemba was seen before Game 5 going up to each of his teammates and checking each player’s heart. He said he just wanted them to be tough after getting out-toughed by the Raptors in Game 4. They didn’t let him down and the Celtics showed heart and determination as they dominated the Raptors. Hopefully Kemba will check their hearts again and they will respond. They need to limit VanVleet’s scoring in this game as well.
Jaylen Brown vs Pascal Siakam
Brown has been the primary defender on Siakam for this series. In Games 1, 2, 3 and 5, 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 bounced back in Game 5 to lead the Celtics in scoring with 27 points and once again limited Siakam to just 10 points and missing both of the 3’s that he took. The Celtics definitely need an aggressive Jaylen Brown if they want to win this game.
Keys to the Game
Defense is always a key to winning and especially so in this series. The Celtics definitely won Game 5 by playing tough lock down defense. They held the Raptors to just 11 first quarter points and just 35 points in the first half. If the Celtics hope to win this game, it is going to have to be with that same lock down defense. They have to come out strong and not allow the Raptors to get anything going. They can’t give them any confidence at all.
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 and that one game that they were out rebounded was their only loss in the regular season. They have to work harder than the Raptors on the boards 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 23 assists to 19 for the Raptors on Monday. They also had fewer turnovers than the Raptors for the first time in the series, with the Raptors turned the ball over 13 times to just 11 for the Celtics. The Celtics need to continue to move the ball and find the open man. They need to play team ball and they also have to continue to take care of the ball and limit their turnovers.
The Celtics need to be the more aggressive team, as they were in Game 5. They have to come out strong and be aggressive right from the tip and not allow the Raptors to get anything going at all. The Celtics need to be aggressive on defense, on the boards, in going to the basket, and in diving for loose balls. They have to be aggressive from the tip to the final buzzer and not let up. They can’t let the Raptors out work them.
The 3 Point Game
The Celtics’ 3 points percentage went down through the first 4 games from 44% to 40% to 31% to 20%. On the other hand, the Raptors’ 3 point percentage went up from 25% to 38% to 33% to 39% over the first 4 games. In Game 5, the Celtics shot 32.4% from beyond the arc to 30% for the Raptors. The Celtics have to be focused on making their 3’s and if they aren’t falling, they have to take the ball inside and get to the line.
Coaching - The chess match continues between these two top coaches. The last move was Brad Stevens’ and we should expect some adjustments from Nick Nurse for this game. After his starters scored just 11 points in the first quarter in Game 5, we may see a shake up in the starters or at least more minutes from the bench if they start off slow once again. Brad needs to be ready for in-game adjustments if Nurse changes things up.
Closeout Game - Closeout games are the toughest to win. The team with its back to the wall will play harder and the team that is up tends to let up somewhat. The Celtics have little closeout experience in the playoffs. Their series in the past have been either easily won or easily lost. The only exception would be Game 7 in 2018 where the Cavaliers sent them home. The Raptors, on the other hand, were in close out games on both ends last season in their championship quest. Hopefully Brad will have them ready for the close out and they will show the same heart and hustle that they did in Game 5.
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 somewhat in Game 5 with 4 on both Smart and Tatum. They need to try to avoid fouling, especially early in the game. 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.
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, John Goble and Sean Wright, like most refs, can be good or bad, but haven’t been particularly bad in most games with the Celtics.