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After two quick series versus two depleted teams, the Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors should be in for a much tighter set of seven games. Toronto continues their title defense after their (surprisingly) terrific regular season. The Celtics are trying to get back to the NBA championship to add to their already historic number of titles.
Keys To The Game:
The Raptors are shooting just under 50% from the field and a bit over 43% from three point land for the playoffs so far. Fred VanVleet and Kyle Lowry both pose a problem starting in the same back court. Both are making plays but VanVleet is scoring at a surprising pace.
The Raptors as a team averaged 30.5 assists per game in round one, spreading the ball around to what seems like wide open players. Their bigs, Pascal Siakam (20.8 points, 7.8 rebounds) and the resurgent Serge Ibaka (19.3 points, 10.3 rebounds), have become a problem to deal with offensively. If they continue to produce at this rate, the Celtics’ defense will spread thin and could face potential foul trouble.
The Raptors led the league in points allowed during the regular season. They will often pick up teams at the half court line and put a ton of pressure on opposing guards. If players eventually trickle down towards the basket, they have the bigs to clean up any mistakes.
Boston has a few players that are great at isolation one on one plays. The truth is they run a bunch of screens and pick plays to get these players open. The amount of action they run before a shot actually goes up rivals that of an Andy Reid pre-snap motion. They also do a great job of diving towards the basket for easy buckets and free throw opportunities.
The Celtics finished right behind Toronto, ranking second in points allowed this season (107.3 points). With a set of very athletic players, the Celtics rarely get beat one on one. Even when they switch off picks and screens, their bigs are able to shuffle their feet to stay in front of wing players. That ability also helps with defending the three point line and keeps teams shooting a low percentage against them (34%).
Matchup To Watch:
Kyle Lowry should be the main defender, even it comes to Kemba Walker. Walker comes to play every night and is a burst of offense every time he touches the court. If Lowry can hold his scoring to a minimum, it could disrupt the Celtics’ entire offense.
The winner of this series will represent the Eastern Conference in my opinion. I’ll take Boston over Toronto, 4-2