The first two teams to advance into the NBA postseason will face off in the east semifinals. Both the Raptors and Celtics have eliminated their opponents in the first round in four games and will meet Thursday with a place in the Eastern Conference Finals up for grabs.
Boston took the regular season series, posting a 2-1 straight-up record and against the spread with a net score of +7.1. It’s hard to take much from the regular season, considering Toronto has played with a fully available roster only once in three matchups. However, there are a few things to reap not only from the two post-season series, but also from the eight seeding games.
The Toronto offense really turned out against the Nets in its sweep. The Raptors averaged 122.9 points for every 100 possessions, shot 49.5% from the ground and 43.3% on 41.0 3-point attempts per game. All excellent figures, but is it all settled with a Toronto offense that was inconsistent in the seeding games?
The Raptors finished their seed matches with an average of 106.9 points per 100 possessions, the 19th ranked offensive in the bubble. However, they finished with the sixth-best 3-point shooting rate (39.1%). In other words, their attack showed a dependency on the 3-point shot and when it did not drop their efficiency suffered. Just look at Game 2 against Brooklyn in which Toronto shot 26.5% from deep and needed a comeback in the second half to win.
How this offensive approach works against one of the NBA’s best perimeter defenses will go a long way in deciding the winner of this series. Boston only conceded 34.6 percent to 3-point opponents, the second-best percentage in the league. In his seed matches that number was 32.6% and Philadelphia only managed 26.4% from over the arc against the Celtics.
Boston seems to be playing on another level, on both ends of the pitch. The Celtics averaged 117.2 points for every 100 possessions against Philadelphia, the best offensive score in the postseason before Monday’s games. They finished sixth in offensive efficiency in seed matches, recording an offensive score of 116.7. However, will this offense be able to sustain itself against Toronto?
Despite the inconsistencies of their offensive play, the Raptors have been stunning defensively, both all season and in Orlando. Toronto conceded only 104.7 points for every 100 possessions in the regular season and quelled the Nets offense to the point that he averaged only 102.4 points for 100 possessions. The Raptors have shown that this defensive style translates into almost every match they have played this season.
Any encounter that is, except those with Boston. Part of the reason Boston won two of their three games against Toronto this season was because of their offensive success. In their three games, the Celtics recorded an offensive score of 110.0 while shooting 44.3% from the ground. Those aren’t mind-blowing metrics on the surface, but they get more impressive when it’s up against one of the best defensive teams in the NBA. Boston appears to have an advantage in this series and has played in three games.
All of this without mentioning the potential absence of Kyle Lowry, who was diagnosed with a sprained ankle on Monday. If Lowry misses any moment in this series, it will be trouble for the Raptors. He wasn’t an incredible offensive piece for Toronto in his series against Brooklyn, but he was a great defender. He was on the pitch for every game against Boston when the Celtics found consistent attacking success. What does this series look like without him?