Raptors Square Off Against Celtics in Long-Awaited Postseason Matchup
It’s crazy to think about it, but over the last half decade, the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics were amongst the handful of elite teams in the Eastern Conference – yet, they never had the opportunity to square off in the postseason.
Now, they do.
After making quick work of the undermanned Brooklyn Nets in 5 games, the Raptors enter this second round matchup as the fresher team. The Celtics, meanwhile, are coming off a high after taking down the Philadelphia 76ers in a neck-and-neck series that went the distance. Ultimately, the Sixers inconsistencies on the road led to their downfall in what was one of the true highlight bouts of the first round.
Nevertheless, fatigue will play a large factor in this second round matchup, especially considering the Celtics’ lack of bench depth – a second unit that ranks near the very bottom of the league in scoring.
The Celtics will rely heavily on their starting unit, which is predominantly build around elite wing play. The Raptors matchup perfectly in that aspect due to their length, athleticism, and size at the forward and guard positions. Additionally, as the Raptors proved time and time again in last year’s postseason run and throughout this season, their big men’s ability to step up as help defenders and switch on ball screens is critical to their defensive success.
Similar to how the Raptors struggled with the size the Philadelphia 76ers presented last season in their second round matchup, the Celtics will endure the same adversity, only without the comforts of home court advantage.
Regardless, a healthy Raptors team will need to provide their best as the Celtics, despite their bench deficiencies, are an incredibly stout opponent. Ranked in the top five in both offensive and defensive rating, the Celtics are incredibly well coached, and it should be noted that with Jayson Tatum, the best player in the series will belong to the no. 3 seed.
The interesting thing to note with the NBA is a number of contenders have taken steps forwards simply by the development of their own players. Much like the Raptors have seen incredible growth from the likes of Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, Fred VanVleet, and Chris Boucher, the Celtics have witness eye-popping development from two young stars of their own in Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Kemba Walker has come in an granted the Celtics a sense of stability, while Gordon Hayward’s resurrection has given Boston four very capable and lethal scorers who play incredibly well together.
The Celtics lead the season series 2-1, but come the playoffs, matchups will be everything – health will be imperative.
The matchup to watch will undoubtedly be Tatum vs. Anunoby, but seeing how Brown is able to contain Siakam, and whether Walker is able to take over games against an elite defensive team will be both interesting and fun to watch. Moreover, the chess match between two of the best coaches in the game will add another layer to what is sure to be a back-and-forth series.
That being said, the Raptors size and defensive versatility with be too much to overcome for the Celtics who are forced into a second straight gruelling series. The Raptors will be in for a dogfight, but will advance in six games to face the Milwaukee Bucks in an Eastern Conference Finals rematch.