#2 Toronto Raptors v. #3 Boston Celtics
CELTICS in 7.
The NBA Playoffs are back after a short hiatus due to a league-wide boycott started by the Milwaukee Bucks just minutes before they were set to take the floor in their Game 5 matchup against the Orlando Magic. The boycotts were taking place to address the ongoing issues in our country related to police brutality and specifically the Jacob Blake shooting that occurred earlier this week. Boycotts were rumored earlier in the week, but the Raptors and Celtics were the teams rumored to take the stand. Coming off the boycott this second round matchup is set to take place and should be a great one.
Both the Raptors and Celtics made quick work of their opponents in the first round sweeping the Nets and 76ers respectively. The Raptors dominated the decimated Nets and leave the series looking as if they are poised to defend their 2019 NBA Title with another title run this year in the Orlando Bubble. The Celtics swept the 76ers, who were without their All-Star PG Ben Simmons. The Philadelphia 76ers All-Star C Joel Embiid gave the Celtics everything they could handle, but ultimately Simmons presence was greatly missed and the 76ers were unable to keep up with the young star-studded Celtics.
These two teams met four times during the regular season, with the Celtics winning the season series 3-1. The Celtics averaged just over 112 points per game in those matchups and the Raptors averaged just over 105 points per game. The Celtics are going to be without their starting SF, veteran Gordon Hayward as he went down in the first round matchup with the 76ers with a right ankle injury and will be out for about a month. Hayward had another very productive season this year averaging 17.5 points, 6.7 rebs, and 4.1 assists. Against the Toronto Raptors this seaon, Hayward averaged 12.8, 7, and 3.3. His veteran presence will be missed along with his defensive presence, but that just means the young duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown will have to step-up for the Celtics.
The Raptors are without last years FMVP Kawhi Leonard as he left the team up north for the Los Angeles Clippers this past offseason, after leading the Raptors to their first NBA Championship in franchise history. The loss of Leonard has not seemed to slow down the Raptors at all this season however, as they secured the #2 seed in the Eastern Conference with a 53-19 record. PF Pascal Siakim is taking big leaps into becoming Toronto’s next franchise player. Longtime Raptor PG, Kyle Lowry was an All-Star again this season after averaging 19.4 points, 5 rebounds, and 7.5 assists. Lowry left Game 4 of the Raptors first round matchup against the Nets hobbled with an ankle sprain. Lowry is listed as probable however for Game 1 of this series and that has to be reassuring news for the Raptors entering this second round battle with the Celtics.
Ultimately I believe the young blossoming duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown will be the deciding factor in this series. Both young players have taken bigger steps this season in the direction of becoming stars in the NBA and great performances from both will be imperative for the Celtics to succeed and ultimately win this series. The Toronto Raptors will not go down without a fight as I expect this to be one of the best matchups of the entire postseason and go the distance of seven games. However, I believe this series will prove that the Raptors miss the starpower of Kawhi Leonard and will need to shop around this offseason to bring in another star to bring them back to a serious championship contender status. Fred VanVleet may have something to say to me about that statement however, as he has been electric offensively for the Raptors. I expect the Raptors to do everything in their power to bring VanVleet back this offseason as he becomes an UFA. The price tag for the upcoming PG will not be cheap, but his game compliments the NBA’s new style so well as he is a sharpshooter from three and a walking bucket.
Again I expect this series to be one of the best of this years postseason, but I do see the Celtics coming out on top in seven games.