The Raptors haven’t played in an elimination game since the contest that featured Kawhi Leonard’s mythic and world stopping “shot”. Up against it in Game 6, how will they respond?
An elimination game with a fantastic team at the helm, but undeniably missing a player the level of Leonard. The Raptors have scraped by with incredible performances from Kyle Lowry, but Game 5 showed us that there’s a definitive limit to how much he can produce and for how long. Disparate pieces have filled in around his brilliance, but it has to be at the forefront of Game 6.
The real question is: Have the Raptors stuck around long enough for Siakam to recapture the form he had for the early part of the season? There are limits to how far Lowry can go, and without some major punch from Siakam it’s tough to envision the Raptors lasting in this series and beyond.
Boston has performed their game plan to a tee. They pressed on all of the Raptors perceived shortcomings to see which were real, and which were figments created by a small sample size. Turns out, some are very real, and the Celtics have the existing roster to make the Raptors pay for those shortcomings. It’s how two of the worst first quarters of the season (Gms 1 & 5) came to be.
Now, it’s up to the Raptors to fight off their limitations, reach their ceiling, and string together two straight wins like they did in games 3 and 4. There’s been myriad adjustments made in this series so far. Nurse has unveiled a hodgepodge of different zone looks to thwart the Celtics for a few possessions at a time. The Raptors have done a great job of limiting both Kemba Walker and Jayson Tatum at times, and the real wrench thrown in the plans of this series has been Tatum’s transcendence in his passing game. The famed frenetic and blitzing defense the Raptors have used to vex other superstars, Tatum has torn apart with intentional looks, deceptive looks, and a great eye for where the rotations come from.
I’d expect the Raptors to go with OG Anunoby on Tatum for the majority of the possessions in game 6. The blitz seems more effective when it’s launched at Walker, especially when it’s done with size. Gasol needs to play a lot of minutes in this one, because the Raptors don’t have another big man who can replicate his defensive output. And at the end of it all, Fred VanVleet, Siakam and Lowry need to be rapid in how they move within the defense. Without performances like that, the Raptors won’t be able to keep pace with the Celtics.
Offensively, the Raptors need to follow the blueprint that was laid out starting in Game 2 and it’s built on the brain and efforts of Lowry. Lowry gets into the teeth of the Celtics defense, you let his play making shine, and the rest of the team begins to attack the cracks that show themselves.
Tipoff: 630pm EST | TV: Sportsnet | Radio: Sportsnet 590THEFAN
Toronto will be without Oshae Brissett (knee) and Pat McCaw (knee). Serge Ibaka (ankle) is questionable.
PG: Kyle Lowry, Terence Davis II
SG: Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell, Matt Thomas, Paul Watson
SF: OG Anunoby, Malcolm Miller, Stanley Johnson
PF: Pascal Siakam, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
C: Marc Gasol, Chris Boucher, Dewan Hernandez
Boston will be without Gordon Hayward (ankle)
PG: Kemba Walker, Brad Wanamaker, Carsen Edwards, Tremont Waters
SG: Marcus Smart, Romeo Langford
SF: Jaylen Brown, Semi Ojeleye
PF: Jayson Tatum, Grant Williams
C: Daniel Theis, Robert Williams, Enes Kanter
“See you at Denny’s?”
“Denny’s is for winners.”
Have a blessed day.