After a pair of first-round sweeps, both the Raptors and Celtics were looking to carry their momentum into Game 1 of their semifinal series on Sunday afternoon. Ultimately, though, it was Boston that got the best of Toronto in their opener. Propelled by 21 points apiece from Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart, the Celtics pulled out a 112-94 victory over the Raptors to take a 1-0 lead in the series. Kemba Walker recorded his first career postseason double-double with 18 points and 10 assists, and Jaylen Brown also added 17 points and five rebounds for Boston. In all, the Celtics had six players score in double figures, including all five starters.
Kyle Lowry led the way for Toronto with 17 points, but made just 5 of his 12 attempts from the floor, in what was a disturbing trend for the entire Raptors team. Boston held Toronto to 36 percent shooting from the field and 25 percent from long range and they limited All-Star Pascal Siakam to just 13 points on 5-for-16 shooting. It was certainly a rough start for the Raptors, but they have experience falling behind early in a series. In the Eastern Conference finals last season, Toronto fell behind 2-0 to Milwaukee. It then went on to win four straight games to secure a spot in the Finals. Toronto will now look to regroup and bounce back for Game 2 on Tuesday night. Here are three key takeaways from Game 1.
1. Boston’s defense was dominant
Both of these teams have top-tier NBA defenses, but it was Boston’s that really stood out in Game 1. The Raptors struggled to get clean looks over the course of the contest, and they also had a tough time generating transition opportunities — one of their preferred methods of point production. In the end, Toronto shot just 36 percent from the field and 25 percent from beyond the arc, numbers that are both well below their season averages. They also had just seven fast-break points. Without ample transition opportunities, Toronto was forced to operate more in the halfcourt, and that resulted in poor percentages. Assuming that Boston will continue to try to limit its fast-break opportunities, Toronto will have to figure out how to generate some easier looks in the halfcourt moving forward in the series. The onus here obviously falls to Raptors coach Nick Nurse, who will have to make some adjustments heading into Game 2.
2. Raptors need more from Siakam
Following the departure of Kawhi Leonard over the offseason, Pascal Siakam stepped into the role of go-to guy for the Raptors. Siakam averaged career highs across the board and blossomed into an All-Star in Leonard’s absence, but All-Stars are expected to step up for their team in the postseason, and Siakam didn’t do that in Game 1. Three first-quarter fouls landed Siakam on the sideline early, and he was never able to get into a rhythm after that. He finished the game with just 13 points on 5-of-16 shooting from the floor. He also missed all three of his 3-point attempts, and got to the foul line only four times. Often, when a player is struggling from the floor, he will look to attack the basket in order to draw some fouls and get himself going from the line. Siakam didn’t do that. Moving forward, Toronto will need him to be more aggressive, and productive, if it wants to have a chance in the series.
3. Plus minutes from Theis
Heading into the series, if Toronto had an advantage on paper, it was their size, as Boston plays a relatively small lineup for a majority of minutes. Toronto didn’t capitalize on that advantage on Sunday though. In order for Boston to play a lineup that consists of four perimeter players, it’s important that they get good minutes from their starting center, Daniel Theis, and that’s exactly what they got in Game 1. Theis played for 25 minutes, and during that time he scored 13 points and grabbed 15 rebounds. He also added two blocked shots for good measure. During his time on the floor, the Celtics outscored the Raptors by 10 points, as he helped to set the tone defensively. When Theis plays as well as he did on Sunday, the Celtics are extremely tough to topple.