5 Things We Learned: Celtics vs. Raptors
The Boston Celtics defeated the Toronto Raptors in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals by a final score of 92-87, which sets up a matchup with the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. Toronto, the defending champions, failed to repeat as champs and have a lot to reassess in this upcoming offseason.
Let’s look at five takeaways from this series.
1. Jaylen Brown is not settling for a sidekick role
Going into the Orlando bubble, Jayson Tatum looked like the face of the franchise, ready to take over as the team’s lead scorer. However, Jaylen Brown didn’t just accept a sidekick role on the team.
In this series alone (per ESPN’s box score), he shot over 50 percent three times, most notably shooting 58.8 percent in the Game 7 win, including an absolute poster on OG Anunoby of the Raptors.
2. Pascal Siakam is not Toronto’s franchise star... yet
Before the stoppage of the NBA season, Pascal Siakam was in the running for his second consecutive Most Improved Player Award because he elevated his game even more following his breakout season the year before.
However, this was not the case against Boston. In this series alone, Siakam only scored over 20 points once while looking very uncomfortable offensively. While Siakam’s struggles can be attributed to Boston’s suffocating defense, the reigning Most Improved Player simply should have produced when his team was facing elimination in Games 6 and 7.
According to ESPN, in Game 6, Siakam put up 12 points on 5 for 19 shooting (26.3 percent), four personal fouls, and three turnovers while the team scored 125 points in a double-overtime victory.
This trend continued in Game 7, when he failed to score over 20 points again, while tacking on five turnovers and a crucial missed free throw down the stretch in the fourth quarter.
3. Defense wins games
Throughout the series between these two teams, one thing remained constant: suffocating defense. Both teams played fantastic, but the Celtics simply locked down the Raptors by only allowing the leading scorer of the Raptors to score 20 points or less three times.
The Raptors also shot 40 percent or higher from 3-point range once this entire series, per ESPN.
Boston’s collection of Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum, Jalen Brown, and Daniel Theis sets up an extremely compelling matchup with the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals, and defense will be the deciding factor.
4. Norman Powell is not Toronto’s closer
Far too often tin this series, Norman Powell failed when given the green light by Nick Nurse to bring the Raptors home. In crucial moments, the rest of the starters were left watching while Powell would take either Marcus Smart, Kemba Walker, or Jaylen Brown one-on-one and come up empty.
Toronto clearly needs a closer who can make shots when needed and putting Norman Powell in isolation situations isn’t going to cut it. Pascal Siakam is supposed to be that guy, but I would not be surprised if Toronto was active in the trade market or in free agency during the offseason.
5. Boston’s rebounding is not to be underestimated
Going into the bubble, the one weakness of the Celtics was their lack of inside presence. Daniel Theis is a suitable rim protector, but Boston struggled to battle on the glass before the season was suspended. However, that all changed in this series.
Out of the seven games between the Raptors and Celtics, Boston won the rebounding battle in every one of them, so expect the upcoming Eastern Conference Finals to be scrappy and ugly on the glass.
Matthew McLaughlin is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.