Keys to the Win: Celtics Take 2-0 Lead Over Raptors

Keys to the Win: Celtics Take 2-0 Lead Over Raptors

by September 2, 2020

The Boston Celtics took a 2-0 series lead over the Toronto Raptors Tuesday night with a 102-99 victory. Boston is now 6-0 since the playoffs began, while Toronto’s back to back losses are their first two of the postseason.

This was a huge win for the Celtics, putting the defending champions in a 0-2 hole. There’s plenty of work to still be done, but Boston is off to the start they needed. Pretty impressive, considering they’re playing without forward Gordon Hayward. There were three key moments that led to their victory, starting with Jayson Tatum out of the half.

Jayson Tatum‘s Third Quarter

Boston held a 50-48 lead at halftime behind a combined 30 points from Tatum and Jaylen Brown in the first 24 minutes of action.

The Celtics would suddenly go ice cold as a team, though, making just 23.8% of their field goal attempts in the 3rd quarter. From three they went 1-9 (11.1%),  including 0-4 from Marcus Smart. It was the perfect opportunity for Toronto to pull away. They would have, had it not been for Jayson Tatum’s ability to get the the free throw line.

He single handily kept them within striking distance, scoring 13 of Boston’s 20 3rd quarter points. Specifically, he carried the Celtics through their cold shooting stretch by getting to the free throw line. In his 11 minutes on the court in the 3rd quarter, Tatum attempted eight free throws, all of which he knocked down.

Takeaway his freebies during a brutally cold shooting stretch, and Boston would have found themselves in a much bigger hole entering the fourth. Likely a hole to deep to dig themselves out of against this experienced Raptors group.

Marcus Smart Opens the Fourth Quarter on Fire

After going ice cold in the third quarter, the Celtics entered the fourth trailing 78-70. After a scoreless opening minute in the final quarter, Marcus Smart knocked down a three-pointer at the 10:59 mark. He followed that with three’s on the following two possessions (all three were assisted by Tatum).

The next four Celtics possessions went:

turnover (Tatum)

three-pointer (Smart)

turnover (Brown)

three-pointer and fouled on the shot (Smart)

Smart converted the four-point play with 7:55 remaining in the game.

That capped a 16 point burst by Marcus Smart in just over three minutes of game-time, on 5-5 shooting from deep. Just like that, Boston was rejuvenated.

Kemba Walker Closes it Out

Walker then became the next man up, scoring 11 of the final 16 points for Boston. Walker shot 4-4 in the final 7:55 to score those 11 points, which proved to be enough to get Boston the big win.

His Boston teammates combined to shoot just 1-7 over that stretch, yet the Celtics were able to close Toronto out.

The final bucket of the game was that smooth mid-range shot by Kemba (something we’ve seen him do before). That put Boston up three, which wound up forcing Toronto to go for a low percentage three as the clock expired.

This game demonstrated just how good the Celtics can be. On a night they didn’t have things going as a team offensively, they didn’t ask one player to take over the entire game. Instead, they had three different guys take over chunks of the second half, and that was enough to get them a 2-0 series lead.

How many teams can do that, to the extent the Celtics did? Not many.

Usually, the keys to the game involve team play, not player moments. Boston’s performance was unique, and there’s no way to ignore those three stretches were the keys to the victory.

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