We finally get the Celtics. If you want the deep dive, you can find that here. If you want all the writers, you’ve come to the right place. This is part two of two, and you can find the first part here! If you’ve already seen it, or you just want to head straight to part two: enjoy.
6) Is there any aspect of the Celtics that is most exploitable? Anything you’re most afraid of?
Siakam is a walking mismatch. He should be able to get to his spots against a lot of the defenders the Celtics have.
They struggle defending interior post play, and with Gasol and Ibaka, the Raptors have two guys that can bruise. Boston likes to switch so if the Raptors are able to get Siakam on Theis/Kanter matchups more frequently it can create foul problems. What I’m fearful of is Kemba Walker exploding.
The Celtics do have individual defenders that can be exploited, whether it be the turnstile that is Kemba Walker or the immobility of Kanter in movement (although Kanter is more than sufficient if you let him defend one-on-one).
As for what I’m scared of, Tatum’s isolation scoring is going to be a problem. Especially if he gets hot.
Their inside presence. With no Gordon Hayward for the series, I think the Raptors have a clear advantage in terms of big men with Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol. While the Celtics big men should not be overlooked, the Raptors can take advantage of opportunities in the post to score.
I’m afraid of the Celtics backcourt. Kemba Walker is prolific on his pull up, which will require the Raptors to send extra bodies on the Celtics point guard.
Aside from bench play, the area where Toronto has the most decisive advantage is down low. Gasol and Ibaka vs Kanter and Theis. Toronto should kill Boston in the paint and on the boards. The Celts are a scrappy team that’s going to force turnovers, hit a lot of 3’s and get out and run. Toronto needs to treat this like a round of golf and win the holes they’re best positioned to win, then dog it out on the remaining ones. And oh yeah, I’m terrified of Jayson Tatum. Aren’t you?
I think Boston’s offense is probably the easiest to exploit. I know that’s a weird thing to say, but Tatum and Walker can’t play 48 minutes each, and is there a single other player on Boston whose offense frightens Toronto? If Toronto clogs the paint on drives, fights like fiends to rearview contest pull-up triples, and force Boston’s stars to give up the ball, who’s gonna beat them? Brown will hit some triples, but he’s not going to drive and make the right decision every time against the thicket of arms. Smart? Wanamaker? Ojeleye? The Celtics don’t have nearly as many offensive weapons as Toronto, and the Raptors are fantastic at making teams’ secondary or tertiary weapons make plays.
7) The Raptors had Lowry guarding Tatum, in large part, during the regular season. Is that how you’d defend him?
It seemed to me that they only had Lowry on Tatum because Gordon Hayward was one of the only wing players who had the strength and control to beat Lowry in the post. With Gordon gone, I expect Lowry to check Smart.
One person shouldn’t guard anyone for the duration of a game as that becomes stale and predictable. One advantage of putting Lowry on him may be that he is more likely to pick up offensive fouls which can be disruptive to them. Taking a larger view, it’s important to be able to comfortably switch 1 through 3 because on the turn they can exploit us.
That felt like Nurse just testing stuff out and playing possum a little. Tatum’s ability to shoot over smaller defenders would worry me if this is a consistent match-up, and I would be more comfortable having OG take this assignment.
The Boston Celtics were 3-1 during the regular season versus the Raptors. Given Lowry’s questionable health, I think Tatum will defend Lowry, but I think Boston may throw extra bodies at Lowry to prevent his ability to see passing lanes and execute the pick and roll.
Nooooooooooooooooooooo. Anunoby has been the Raptors No. 1 option as a wing defender all season, defending some of the best players in the world. He got those reps for a reason. It’s time to put him on Tatum and allow him to exhaust all his energy defending the Celtics No. 1 option. If you can limit Tatum, you have a really good chance of winning the series, and I think Anunoby is the guy most likely to cause Tatum problems. I also think the Raptors will double-team Tatum a lot.
No. Kyle’s likely not going to have the legs to keep up with that kid all series, but regardless, you can’t stick one guy on an opposing player for a 7 game series, especially not against Brad Stevens. I expect Nurse to throw a flurry of different looks at Tatum, not allowing him to get comfortable against any particular defender. Tatum is the Celtics most important player. If he can’t get it going, it’s going to be tough for Boston to win games.
I think Lowry will spent some time against Tatum, though it probably won’t be as frequent as it was in the regular season. Nurse may even start Lowry on Tatum in game one. Lowry is so good at aggressively attacking opponents and pushing them back, and Toronto way want to challenge Tatum’s dribble with a guy like Lowry. Tatum will have trouble backing him down in the post, though Tatum can loft turnarounds over Lowry at will, and he’s deadly with those. Like everyone else, I think Anunoby ends up on Tatum, but Lowry will be there some, for sure.
8) Toronto averaged 20 turnovers a night against Boston in the four season games. Is that random, or is there something that actually needs fixing?
It’s the above-the-break pressure. It’s a facet of the Celtics defense, and the Raptors have to be diligent in getting to their sets to avoid some of their harassing defense.
Needs fixing. They have better perimeter length than us and the turnovers are a reflection of that. Something as simple as tightening up the point to wing passes by catching them further back can be enough of a safety measure to avoid needless giveaways.
Boston is a very good defensive team and poses challenges to the Raptors with their ability to switch multi-positional wings at several spots. With that said, I think there is a lot of noise within the season series. Several games had key players missing, and the final game at Disney had the makings of a team not trying to show their cards.
But come back to me after game 1 and my answer might be entirely different.
Obviously you want to limit turnovers. But I wouldn’t look too deeply into the four regular-season games. The Raptors were missing players and I highly doubt head coach Nick Nurse would show his whole playbook in the Celtics game in the bubble.
Something I will keep going back to throughout the playoffs is the Raptors top-7 players. Those guys know how to play together and are all high-IQ guys. When push comes to shove, I expect Nurse to limit his rotation to those 7 and I don’t expect them to turn the ball over a whole lot. Give the Celtics credit for forcing a lot of turnovers in the regular season, but I’ll chalk a lot of it up to the Raptors being injured and having to plug in bench guys who don’t have a lot of chemistry with the starters.
No I don’t think it’s random, I think Boston’s lanky wings and invasive guards matchup incredibly well with the way Toronto likes to move the ball, especially in the half court. Ball control needs to be something that the Raps make a point of emphasis from the get go. If Toronto turns the ball over 20 times per game this series, they’re not beating the Celtics four times.
The turnover thing was weird, as Toronto is usually a low-turnover team, and Boston doesn’t force a whole heck of a lot of turnovers from most opponents. But it was Lowry, Siakam, and VanVleet who averaged the most miscues against Boston, far more than their averages. That, to me, is indicative of some level of randomness. Those three know how to take care of the ball, and I trust their season-long averages over the four games against Boston. Shouldn’t remain an issue.
9) Let’s talk Siakam. How are you feeling about his game right now? How do you predict he’ll play against Boston?
The good news – he’s still a major plus for the Raptors. One of the only stars who won’t ever sacrifice his defense for the offensive end. He is a bit rusty though, and his decision making has left me wanting. I’m expecting a couple highs and a couple lows. Luckily the Raptors have the talent on the squad to survive a tough game from him.
Siakam is perfect. He had 63 points in the Nets series to Fred’s team-leading 76. There is nothing to worry about unless he is chucking shots. If he gets hot, he gets hot. If he doesn’t, he doesn’t, and there are an army of guys behind him who can make up for it. Leave Pascal alone.
I have no idea how he’ll play. This can be his coming-of-age series, though. I’ll bet on him.
I have no issues with Siakam right now. Nurse used him in a variety of ways against the Nets and allowed him to stretch his legs a little bit further, but when the Raptors needed him to he attacked the basket and was a problem for his defender.
Brown and Tatum certainly give a new level of challenge, but with opportunities to exploit Kemba (off of Lowry or Fred screens) will certainly help elevate his scoring.
I think this is a huge series for Siakam. He’s been good but not great since the NBA restart. I thought his defense was aggressive against the Nets, utilizing his length and size in the post. With Jaylen Brown most likely to defend Siakam, I think the Raptor forward will have success in this matchup, particularly in executing his savvy post moves. If Siakam shows aggressiveness and hustle in the paint, finishing at the rim with force, I think he will be in for a big series.
I think he is starting to find his rhythm and, although his outside shot isn’t falling right now, I think he’ll have a big series against the Celtics. He is just too long and athletic to not have his way in the paint against the Celtics, and we started to see him not settle against the Nets and just bully his way inside. Plus, watch out if his outside shot starts to fall!
Pascal Siakam is debatable the best player on a championship-level team, and in a season or two, that’s no longer going to be a debate. I’ve passed the point where I worry about how he’s playing for a short snippet of time. He rose to the occasion last year when the Raptors needed him most, and I have no doubt an elite level of Pascal will be on display this series. Especially when Kyle needs him more than ever.
I’m feeling higher on Siakam’s defense than I ever have before. It’s incredible, and he’ll probably be tasked with the Tatum duty in some important moments. As for his offensive game, I was looking more at process than results against Brooklyn, and he did a mostly good job at creating good looks. In game four, he did a wonderful job. If he makes quick decisions, whether driving, shooting, or passing, he should thrive against any defender, even Jaylen Brown. I’m not worried about Siakam.
I don’t do predictions, I do art.
I refuse to make any predictions as to not anger the basketball gods. Also voodoo and bad omens.
Raptors in five. We have an advantage inside and on the boards, and should be able to contain them in the half-court. As long as we’re not getting killed in transition this should be easier than the Philly series last year.
Raptors in 6. This should be a great series to watch and feels like years in waiting. Let’s make it count.
Raptors in 7.
Raptors in 6.
Like the majority (wow, everyone who’s making a prediction is picking Raps! That has to be a first.), I’m going Raps in six. I’ve never seen such uniformity here before, probably saying something.