1. In 3 Questions we asked if the Celtics could outshoot the Raptors from behind the arc again. Boy did they! Boston made 20-of-39 from deep compared to 9-of-28 for Toronto. Semi Ojeleye and Payton Pritchard became the first pair of Celtics in franchise history to hit at least six three-pointers in the same game. Ojeleye’s strong game went beyond just his hot shooting, as he set a career-high with 24 points.
Kemba Walker got in on the act as well, as he knocked down 5-of-8 three-pointer of his own. It was indeed a Boston Three Party.
2. Turnovers were another key stat to keep an eye on. Toronto leads the league in forcing turnovers and got Boston to cough it up 19 times. We also noted that the Raptors tend to foul a lot with their aggressive defense. The Celtics were able to take advantage of that and got 28 free throw attempts. It was a case of hot shooting and easy offense at the line more than offsetting the giveaways.
3. The last item on our list of queries was about bench scoring. In the first matchup, Boston’s bench was excellent. Payton Pritchard was terrific with 20 points off the pine. You can sort of count Semi Ojeleye in here also, as he got the spot start.
Other Celtics contributed in their roles, as well. Tristan Thompson was a beast on the boards and Grant Williams made a few of those GRANT! plays. Chris Boucher was the only Raptors reserve to show up, as Boston’s depth showed up again vs Toronto.
4. The Celtics ball movement was the best it has been all season. They piled up 30 assists on 39 baskets. Most of the passing work was done by Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Brown set a career-high with 10 assists. This was one of his earlier ones, as Brown worked out of pick-and-roll to find Semi Ojeleye in the corner:
This was Brown’s best assist of the night. He’s working out of the post against the smaller Fred VanVleet. Brown sees the double coming from Pascal Siakam. This pass to the opposite corner along the baseline is high level stuff:
5. Jayson Tatum had nine assists himself. That brought his season average to 4.4 per game, which is easily a career-best. This one came off an ATO. It’s a simple pick-and-roll with Daniel Theis. But look at how well the floor is spaced. Jaylen Brown and Semi Ojeleye stay on the wing and in the corner. As Theis rolls, Kemba Walker lifts to the wing, which takes his man out of being a help defender. Sometimes simple is best:
Tatum’s drive-and-kick game has clicked now too. It used to be when he broke down a defense, it only looked to score. Now, Tatum knows where his shooters are and he dimes them up regularly:
6. This a heady play from Grant Williams. He’s shot it well enough that defenses have to close hard now. Next step for Williams is driving the closeout. Here, he goes on Kyle Lowry, draws the help and sees Stanley Johnson is caught no-man’s land. The result is a perfect lefty pass to Payton Pritchard for the corner three:
7. Jaylen Brown is an All-Star for sure. But this is the kind of play that will launch him to being named All-NBA:
8. It wasn’t all peaches and cream for the Celtics. The perimeter defense had some issues, as the Raptors drove past defenders quite often. Inside, the rim protection had moments, but it was too easy too often. Someone blows this coverage, maybe Jaylen Brown. That means Tristan Thompson has a right to be mad. But Thompson himself does nothing to contest the shot. Part of a big man’s responsibility is to clean up his teammate’s mistakes at the rim. This is bad all around:
9. The above play is bad defense. This is…no defense? Horrible defense?
In many ways, the Celtics were fortunate that the third quarter turned into a mess, because the Raptors were starting to pick apart their defense. Toronto made a layup with 4:36 to play in the quarter to cut Boston’s lead to 86-77. Neither team would score for nearly three minutes after that. It looked like a combination of Biddy League and the last game of the day at the playground after a 12-hour day. That two-way drought allowed the Celtics to hold off the Raptors and regain control of the game.
10. Payton Pritchard got his initial minutes because of his shooting. He’s kept those minutes because of defensive plays like this. He keeps Pascal Siakam in front of him on the switch. Then he steps in and takes the charge on Kyle Lowry. If he keeps making plays like this, Pritchard can conduct postgame Zoom sessions from wherever he wants: