Both the Raptors and Celtics are coming off sweeps of their first round opponents. The Raptors swept the Brooklyn Nets, while the Celtics swept the Philadelphia 76ers. The Celtics may have won the series against Philly but they lost forward Gordon Hayward for the next month. Thus it is doubtful he will play in this series. The Toronto Raptors are the 2nd overall ranked defense in the NBA, while the Celtics are the 5th best defense. The Celtics are the 4th best offensive team overall and the Raptors are 13th in overall offense. The Celtics were 3-1 against the Raptors this season. This match up has all the makings of a great series. The Raptors back court of Kylee Lowry and Fred VanVleet match up against Kemba Walker and Marcus Smart. Smart will look to lock down VanVleet, while the two former Big East stars in Lowry and Walker will battle it out. Another great match up will be between Raptors forward Pascal Siakam and Celtics forward Jayson Tatum. Tatum was beyond superb in against the 76ers and he will look to make his presence felt again the Raptors. The match up between Celtics forward Jaylen Brown and the Raptors forward OG Anunoby will be interesting as well. At center Toronto’s Marc Gasol will go against Boston’s Daniel Theis. The Raptors also have two key players off the bench in Serge Ibaka and Norman Powell. The Raptors’ bench scored 100 points in the final game against the Nets. Ibaka and Powell had more than half those points.
The Celtics bench meanwhile primarily consists of two guys in guard Brad Wanamaker and big man Enes Kanter. Crucial to this series for the Celtics will not only be how many points Tatum and Brown combine for per game, but also whether Marcus Smart can shut down either Klye Lowry or Fred VanVleet. Whichever team’s point guard outplays the other will also be critical in determining which one of these teams will play in the conference finals. The Celtics will have to figure out how to pierce the Raptors’ seemingly impermeable defense. Pascal Siakam will have to both score some points and play incredibly efficient defense on Jayson Tatum. Marc Gasol will be able to outplay Daniel Theis but will be kept in check by Enes Kanter when he comes in for Theis. Serge Ibaka will also be able to put moves on Theis. Enes Kanter is the primary big man on the Celtics roster.
Overall, these teams are incredibly evenly matched. What the Raptors may lack in a superstar, they make up for in experience. This team went to the Finals last year and won. What the Celtics lack in experience they make up for with all-stars in point guard Kemba Walker and forward Jayson Tatum. Walker is averaging 22.8 points per game against the Raptors this year while Jayson Tatum is averaging 16.5 points per game against them. Small forward Jaylen Brown is averaging 23 points per game against Toronto. So for the Raptors it will be crucial to stop Tatum, Brown, and Walker. The Raptors on the other hand are getting 22 points per game from Pascal Siakam against Boston, while also getting 16.5 points per game and 5 assists from Fred VanVleet. The Raptors have the advantage at center as Marc Gasol will go against Daniel Theis. Expect for the Celtics to use Enes Kanter often, as he’s a much better match up against Gasol than is Daniel Theis.
All in all this series will come down to which team plays better defense and which team gets better point guard play. In addition, the play of Boston’s forwards in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown against Toronto’s Pascal Siakam, OG Anonuby, and Norman Powell will be crucial in deciding who will win this series. For Toronto to win they’re gonna need Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka to dominate inside. They’re also going to need Siakam to hold Jayson Tatum to under 20 points per game in this series. Easier said then done, but that’s what Toronto needs to do. Either Kyle Lowry or Fred VanVleet is going to have to put the clamps on the red hot Kemba Walker. For the Celtics to win they’re going to need at least 60 points from Tatum and Brown and if Walker is included it’s at least 80. Marcus Smart is going to have to step up on offense and not only on defense. With Gordon Hayward out the other Celtics are going to have to make up for his 17 points per game. Ultimately this series should go 6-7 games. The battles should be fun ones to watch.
Enjoy the games!