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Toronto Raptors

Three things to watch as Toronto Raptors look to keep title defence alive in Game 6 against Boston Celtics

Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals is upon us and there's plenty on the line.

MORE: Ibaka (ankle) listed as questionable for Game 6

Up 3-2 in the series, the Boston Celtics are one win away from their third Eastern Conference Finals appearance in four years. On the other hand, the Toronto Raptors are one loss away from their title defence coming to an end.

Below, we've got you covered with everything you need to know ahead of Game 6, including broadcast information and three things to keep an eye on in a big game.

Where to Watch

Date: Wednesday, Sept. 9

Time: 6:30 p.m. ET

TV: Sportsnet

Location: The Field House, Orlando, FL

Three Things to Watch

Pascal's response

The performance of All-Star forward Pascal Siakam has been a buzzworthy topic throughout the playoffs, and understandably so.

Ahead of Game 3, the question was whether or not he'd be able to figure things out after struggling to start the series. Now, with Toronto's back against the wall, all eyes will be on Siakam and his response to the words of head coach Nick Nurse:

"I'm not sure why he's been so out of rhythm since the restart. He hasn't had a lot of great games … It's too bad because he was spectacular in last year's playoffs and he was spectacular all season long. We still have games to go. Hopefully, he can get his rhythm."

Game 5 saw Siakam score just 10 points (on 5-for-9 shooting), six of which came in six second-half minutes after the game was well out of reach.

In this series, we've seen marked aggression from Siakam after the halftime break.

Through five games, Siakam is averaging 10.0 points in the second half in contrast to the 5.8 he's averaged in the first half. To take things a step further, Siakam is averaging 7.4 points in the third quarter, marking a stark difference from his play in the other three periods.

Per NBA.com Stats

Siakam in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, by quarter
Quarter PTS FGM FGA FG% REB
1 2.0 0.8 3.6 22.2 1.4
2 3.8 1.6 3.2 50.0 1.6
3 7.4 3.2 6.2 51.6 2.8
4 3.3 1.0 3.5 28.6 1.0

Nurse did add that it is on him to get Siakam involved early in games.

Toronto is in its first elimination game since last year's Game 7 against the Philadelphia 76ers and in short, it's now or never. The Raptors need an aggressive Siakam from the opening tip in order to have a chance to extend the series to a decisive seventh game.

As for Nurse's words, he has historically been able to ignite a fire in his players by addressing their performance to the media. At a crucial juncture, could Pascal be the latest example of this working?

It would be the ultimate chess move from the Coach of the Year.

Scoring Trends that Correlate with Winning

It's deeper than just 3-point shooting but that's a good place to start.

In this series, there has been a direct correlation between winning and perimeter shooting. It's a pretty straightforward concept, actually.

3-point shooting in the Eastern Conference Semifinals
Boston Celtics Toronto Raptors
In Wins 14.3-37.0 (38.7%) 15.0-42.0 (35.7%)
In Losses 8.0-32.0 (25.0%) 11.0-40.0 (27.5%)

After 3-point shooting, there are a few more numbers to keep an eye on with respect to influencing the outcome of Game 6.

Leading into the series, transition scoring was a hot topic. Could Toronto score in the open floor against a Boston team known for its transition defence? So far, both teams have done a great job getting back on D but it appears to be more important for the Raptors to limit the Celtics' transition.

Per NBA.com Stats

Transition scoring in the Eastern Conference Semifinals
Boston Celtics Toronto Raptors
In Wins 10.7 PTS/G 10.0 PTS/G
In Losses 4.5 PTS/G 13.7 PTS/G

Coming into the series, we knew that Toronto would fall shy of its regular-season average of 18.8 fast break points per game but it has countered that by limiting Boston in the open floor. So much so, that the Celtics scored a total of nine points in their two losses.

It might be unrealistic to expect the Raptors to hold the Celtics to a handful of transition buckets in Game 6 but they do need to continue to focus on limiting fast break points.

Some other numbers to be aware of:

  • Toronto is averaging 16.5 second-chance points in wins and just 6.3 second-chance points in losses
  • Boston is averaging 36.7 points in the paint in wins and 47.0 points in the paint in losses

There's sure to be a correlation with the Celtics' inability to get going from the perimeter in losses that have made for more opportunities inside. That, and the adjustment made to the Raptors' zone that saw Enes Kanter see some minutes.

Could Toronto employ more zone looks to wreak havoc defensively and limit perimeter buckets?

As for the second-chance points, it's pretty simple: the Raptors give themselves more opportunities while limiting the Celtics' opportunities. Forcing Boston to take the ball out of the net rather than pull down rebounds also limits transition opportunity.

In this series, each game has taken on a different identity but these are figures to at least be aware of.

Tatum's moment

Jayson Tatum is no stranger to the closeout game. In fact, Game 6 will be the eighth closeout opportunity the 22-year-old has had in his three-year career.

And up to this point, he's 4-3 in such games, averaging 21.7 points with an opportunity to advance to the next round on the line.

In the opening round of this year's playoffs, Tatum finished with 28 points, 15 rebounds and four assists in a Game 4 win that completed the Celtics' series sweep of the Philadelphia 76ers.

After scoring 18 points on just 5-for-15 shooting and grabbing 10 rebounds in Game 5, Boston's first-time All-Star has an opportunity to lead this team back to the Eastern Conference Finals.

This year's Game 6 feels like an opportunity for Tatum to transcend to yet another level of stardom.

In 2018, he was a rookie. Last year, a power imbalance in the locker room meant he wasn't truly the man. Now, Tatum can deliver a signature moment to lead his team in a series in which many believed he was the most talented player coming into it.

As true as the above statement may be, Tatum hasn't always looked like the best player on the floor since Game 2, with Toronto's defence deserving some of the credit for that being the case.

Jayson Tatum, 2020 Eastern Conference Semifinals
PTS FGM FGA FG% 3PM 3PA 3P% REB AST
Games 1-2 27.5 8.5 17.5 48.6 3.0 6.0 50.0 8.5 4.0
Games 3-5 19.0 6.7 17.0 39.2 1.0 5.0 20.0 9.7 4.3

In Game 6, he has an opportunity to put that behind him and continue to build his ever-growing legacy as the next Celtics great, excelling as a scorer, passer and a defender.

Be on the lookout for a big night from the 22-year-old.

Series Schedule

Game 1 - Boston Celtics 112, Toronto Raptors 94

Game 2 - Boston Celtics 102, Toronto Raptors 99

Game 3 - Toronto Raptors 104, Boston Celtics 103

Game 4 - Toronto Raptors 100, Boston Celtics 93

Game 5 - Boston Celtics 111, Toronto Raptors 89

Game 6 - Wednesday, Sept. 9, 6:30 p.m. - Sportsnet

Game 7 - Friday, Sept. 11, TBD - TSN

Game 7 if necessary

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