The Celtics knocked off the Raptors in blowout fashion Friday night by the tune of 122-100, handing Toronto its first loss since the NBA restart, thus snapping the Raptors’ three-game winning streak.
Boston dominated from start to finish. The Celtics leaped out to a 10-2 lead before the Raptors spent the rest of the night playing catch-up and Toronto never led once. The Celtics eventually stretched their lead to 40 in the second half – it was their biggest lead of the night.
Jaylen Brown’s 20 points led six Celtics players in double figures, including Jayson Tatum (18), Kemba Walker (17), Brad Wanamaker (15), and Daniel Theis (11). The Raptors shot 42.7% from the floor, including 10-of-38 from deep.
One could make a case that the Celtics – a team that entered Friday’s game with a .500 record (2-2) throughout their first four seeding games in Orlando – proved they have a good chance of knocking off the Raptors in a potential best-of-7 series if these two teams were to meet in the postseason. However, Brad Stevens doesn’t quite see it that way.
“This game will mean nothing if we get that opportunity,” Stevens said. “They’re a really good team. I thought they missed a lot of open looks and it just wasn’t their night. I thought our guys played well but it won’t mean anything in a couple of weeks.”
Celtics vs Raptors in Eastern Conference Semifinals?
With a potential second-round playoff matchup looming, the Celtics and Raptors are an intriguing matchup for a list of reasons.
For starters, the two rising All-Stars in Jayson Tatum and Pascal Siakam facing off in the postseason will be must-see TV, both teams pose threats to take down Giannis Antetokounmpo and the conference-leading Bucks, and although Toronto and Boston have had some epic battles over the years, they have never met in the playoffs. It would be the first Celtics-Raptors series in NBA history.
Celtics Defense Was The Difference Maker
Stevens did have some positive things to say about his team’s impressive feat. While he did credit Toronto by saying the Raptors just weren’t their normal selves Friday night, the Celtics, on the other end, impressed their head coach with their gridlock defense – one that held the Raptors to less than 60 points (57) through the opening three quarters, forced 17 turnovers and held All-Star Pascal Siakam to an 11-point, 5-of-15 lackluster performance.
“I think the biggest thing is that we were ready to play,” Stevens said. “Wednesday we really guarded, for the most part, the way we wanted to start guarding and I thought that continued today. We have to be locked in, we have to be dialed in, we have to be good defensively to have a chance to be a good team. I don’t think it’s a surprise that your offense follows that when you are dialed in like that.”
Tatum, who’s been shooting over 50% (54.5) since his dreadful start of the seeding games, says Friday’s showing should be the kind of effort we see from the Celtics on a nightly basis.
“I think that’s who we should be,” Tatum told reporters following Friday night’s win. “We got so many talented guys on this team, especially on the offensive end. When we move the ball like that, I think we’re really, really hard to guard. Obviously, Toronto’s a very good defensive team. We know if we see them again they’re going to, obviously, play better.”
The Celtics will look to carry their momentum from Friday’s win into Sunday’s matchup against the Magic.
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