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Toronto Raptors

NBA Playoffs 2020: Celtics use stifling defence and balanced offensive attack to earn Game 1 win over Raptors

The Boston Celtics are out to a 1-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference Semifinals after earning a 112-94 win over the Toronto Raptors.

Marcus Smart and Jayson Tatum led all scorers with 21 points apiece while Kyle Lowry led the Raptors with 17 points despite playing through the left ankle injury he suffered just a week ago.

As there was was a lot to take from this highly-anticipated playoff matchup, take a look at some initial observations from the game.

The C's imposed their will early

Things got off to a rough start for Toronto.

In the first action for both teams in a week, Boston imposed its will early on both ends of the floor in the opening frame. The Celtics led by as many as 19 points in the first, taking a 39-23 lead into the second quarter.

Boston's 39 points are tied for the fourth-highest scoring quarter by a Toronto opponent in the franchise's postseason history.

The numbers didn't look great for the Raptors, either. The team shot 8-for-22 (36.4%) from the field, committed 11 fouls and six turnovers with Pascal Siakam (three), Marc Gasol (two) and Serge Ibaka (two) each finding early foul trouble.

The Celtics never looked back, either, earning a wire-to-wire victory to open the series.

Boston's ball movement means a balanced attack

When asked about the Raptors defence ahead of Game 1, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens told reporters "Isolation is not the answer. They just load up on you, so the ball has to pop. You have to move."

It's no surprise that Boston found offensive success by moving the ball.

They relocated and hit tough ones under durress…

Drove and kicked…

And got the bigs involved on the roll…

The result? Six different Celtics finished in double figures, led by 21 points from both Marcus Smart and Jayson Tatum. Not only did Kemba Walker score 18 points (on 6-for-11 shooting), he also dished out 10 assists.

Jaylen Brown finished with 17 points, Daniel Theis scored 13 and Robert Williams came off the bench to score 10 points on perfect 5-for-5 shooting.

Limited transition offence for the Raps

As outlined in the series preview, the Raptors ability to score in transition was the key storyline of this series.

Stevens admitted as much during his in-game interview during the ESPN broadcast, telling Malika Andrews, "if we let them score in transition, it's going to be a long series for us."

As it was a clear focal point for the Celtics, who boast a top-five transition defence, the Raptors were limited to just seven fast break points, severely limiting their offence as a whole.

Pascal and Fred struggle to find their groove

In the opening round, Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam were the Raptors leading scorers, although Siakam's struggles had been magnified.

To open the semifinals, Siakam's struggles continued while VanVleet just couldn't find his rhythm.

For Siakam, it was trouble from the get-go as he got on the board early but was thrown off after picking up three early fouls in the first frame. He truly never figured it out, finishing with just 13 points on 5-for-16 shooting.

VanVleet made his presence felt as a distributor, finishing with eight assists but it was an abysmal shooting night, as he finished with just 11 points after shooting 3-for-16 from the field and 2-for-11 from deep.

Captain Obvious checking in to say that it's going to be extremely hard for the Raptors to win when Siakam and VanVleet combine to shoot 8-for-32 (25%) from the field.

It's only one game

Your reminder that a buzzer-beating win and a 18-point win in the postseason are ultimately the exact same - one win.

It's a drastically different team but last year, the Celtics earned a 22-point Game 1 victory over the Bucks before losing four straight (sorry, C's fans). The Raptors also suffered a 21-point loss in Game 3 against the 76ers last year before winning three of four to advance.

That being said, both teams have been in similar positions, meaning you shouldn't expect Boston to get too high off the victory or Toronto to get too low off of a loss.

What's next?

It's a quick turnaround for Toronto and Boston, as they'll take the floor for Game 2 on Tuesday, Sept. 1.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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