The Boston Celtics defeated the Toronto Raptors 112-94 in game 1. Although there’s a lot of basketball left to be played, Coach Brad Stephens has a lot to be grateful for.
The Celtics were able to jump out to a double-digit lead in the first quarter. They ended the first quarter with a 17 point cushion. Marking it one of the Celtics best quarters of the season. From then on, Boston didn’t look back and held on to that lead. The main reason for Toronto’s early struggle is Coach Nick Nurse’s idea to keep Pascal Siakam in with 2 fouls. Siakam ended up picking up his 3rd foul on a made 3 point shot by Jaylen Brown. After that, Siakam could not get into an offensive groove.
Boston was simply efficient on offense. Despite Jayson Tatum’s early shooting struggles, he ended up being the game leader. He and Marcus Smart tying with 21 points. But as an entire unit, the C’s shot well from the field and behind the arc. Celtics shot 47% from the field, hit 17 shots from the perimeter, and knocked down 81% in free throws. It is unlikely that this team can keep it up, but they showed promise despite Gordon Hayward's absence.
Offensively it was also a team effort. Kemba Walker pulled in a double-double with 18 points and 10 assists. Walker, made baskets in key moments when it looked like Toronto was on a run. Jaylen Brown knocked down his shots and went to the basket fiercely. Brown finished around the rim and played with confidence.
Brad Stephens made it a point to stop the Raptors while in transition. And that is exactly what they did. Although the Celtics gave up 22 turnovers, Toronto failed to score off the opportunities like they usually have had. Whether it was a miss, turnover, or any change of possessions the Celtics got back on defense quickly. This forced Toronto to set up their offense and show their lack of variety of weapons.
The defensive plan from Coach Stephens has been simple; throw different looks at the frontcourt. Throughout this game and the series with Philly, Stephens played a variety of different defenses. In-game 1, the young but athletic Robert Williams played 19 minutes and dropped in 10 points. Enes Kanter didn’t play tonight but Daniel Theis played very well. The Celtics also threw a zone at the Raptors a few times over the course of the game.
It wasn’t just the frontcourt of Boston who guarded guys like Siakam and Marc Gasol. Tatum, Brown, and Smart had their share of defensive stands against the big guys of Toronto. Those guys stranded strong on the block and double-teamed at times as well. It was a team effort on defense to make up for the lack of depth in the frontcourt.
Nick Nurse will make some adjustments. Don’t expect the All-Star Siakam to only have 13 points and Fred VanVleet to have 11. The Backcourt of the Raptors didn’t show up for game 1 but will in the future. They will have a better team effort moving forward.
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