While one series in the Eastern Conference is on the verge of a sweep, the other has turned into a best-of-three series. That’s because the Toronto Raptors took care of business on Saturday night, picking up a 100-93 win over the Boston Celtics in their conference semifinal tilt. With the win, Toronto tied things up at two games a piece in what has, easily, been the best series in this round of the postseason so far.
Game 5 — and hopefully Games 6 and 7 — is shaping up to be a brawl between two teams that fight like hell and will do anything to win. Before we get to that point, though, we looked back on the Raptors’ second win in a row.
The Great Equalizer
In the first three games of the series, Toronto just could not hit anything from deep. They went 10-for-40 in Game 1, 11-for-40 in Game 2, and 13-for-40 in Game 3 from behind the arc, a noticeable cold streak from the team that was third in the league in made threes and fifth in three-point field goal percentage during the regular season. With the Raptors’ struggles in generating points in the half-court during the series and Boston’s ability to keep them from getting out and running, hitting shots from downtown was crucial.
This problem fixed itself in Game 4. The Raptors were 17-for-44 from three, with the 1-2 punch of Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet combining to go 9-for-21 on their own. In fact, outside of a poor night from deep for Pascal Siakam (2-for-13), Toronto was on fire from deep. On the other side of things, Boston — which had shot very well in the series — went ice cold, going 7-for-35. Three starters (Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum, Kemba Walker) went 1-for-6, while Jaylen Brown shot 2-for-11.
Again, Toronto is not a particularly great team when it comes to generating offense in the halfcourt. If the champs want to win two of the next three, hitting triples is going to be gigantic. Saturday night was an excellent start as they look to do that.
Siakam’s come under some fire for how he’s played thus far in the series. Coming into Saturday night, he was averaging 15.3 points and six rebounds in the series while connecting on 36.2 percent of his shots from the field and 18.2 percent of his threes. He is better than this — you do not become an All-Star on accident — but he was playing some really poor basketball. For someone who needs to be a consistent option if this team is going to knock off the Celtics, that’s not acceptable.
While he still had a rough night from three, Siakam was very, very good. He scored 23 points on 10-for-23 shooting and hauled in 11 rebounds. He was darn near automatic inside the arc, going 8-for-10 on twos. Despite the fact that his jumper wasn’t falling, he stayed assertive and was a menace in the paint. Siakam’s a long and patient player, and when he’s able to get a head of steam or back down a smaller defender, he’s going to find ways to score.
Spicy P (23 PTS) and Lowry (22 PTS) power Toronto to a crucial Game 4 win! 🔥 pic.twitter.com/lgDdVkAEM6
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) September 6, 2020
Add in his defensive intensity and Siakam is someone who should be able to win games for Toronto. He hasn’t been able to do that through three games, but on Saturday, he looked like that dude. If Siakam’s shots from deep can start falling, then the Raptors could end up doing a repeat of last year’s series against Milwaukee, falling down 0-2 before ripping off four wins in a row. If not, that’s fine, because Game 4 showed that he’s able to win them games in other ways.
This Series Rules
So normally with the third takeaway, we’ll mention something about the other team, unless the game was really boring and one-sided and we decided to put down a good recipe for chicken wings. Instead, an observation: I love everything about this series.
Boston and Toronto approach every game with the same mentality. They battle for 48 straight minutes, dive for loose balls, fly around on defense, try to draw charges, all the stuff that should add up to a whole lot of winning plays over the course of an entire game. Despite only one of these groups having a ring, both the Celtics and the Raptors have the mentality that you see out of champions. Whether it’s Smart scratching and clawing for everything, or Lowry doing this stuff…
…every single game that these two teams play are brawls. Compared to the other series in the East, in which one team is wired this way and the other looks like a group of deer in the headlights (pun absolutely intended), this is like watching a heavyweight fight, and now, it’s best two-out-of-three to determine which one will get to play for the right to be crowned champions of the Eastern Conference.
I really hope this series goes seven games. Both of these teams are well-coached and collectively believe in one another. Actually, seven games isn’t enough. If this could turn into a best-of-15 series, that would be fun. It’s a shame that one of them have to end up losing.