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Toronto Raptors

Three things to watch as the Raptors look to overcome their struggles vs. the Celtics

tatum-siakam-nbae-gettyimages
Jayson Tatum and Pascal Siakam (NBAE/Getty Images)

The Boston Celtics have taken command in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, getting out to a 2-0 series lead after taking the first two games from the Toronto Raptors.

As such, Game 3 is essentially a must-win for Toronto, as a 0-3 deficit has proven to be insurmountable in the history of the NBA Playoffs.

Below, find information on where to watch Game 3 as well as three things to watch once these two teams step back on the floor to meet for the third time in five days.

Where to Watch

Date: Thursday, Sept. 3

Time: 6:30 p.m ET

TV: TSN

Location: The Field House, Orlando, FL

Three Things to Watch

Can Pascal figure it out?

"We just tell (Pascal) our confidence is in him. We know how good he can be and how dominant of a basketball player he can be. He has to figure it out and make some shots. If he makes some shots it's a different game. It happens sometimes." - Kyle Lowry

By now, it's no secret: Pascal Siakam has had his fair share of struggles through the first six games of the postseason.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, we assess how Siakam has performed in this series through the words of Lowry, who maintains that the team is confident in its All-Star forward.

While we wouldn't expect Lowry to say anything less, a look at the numbers shows there is substance behind his words.

Siakam got off to a solid start in Game 2, finishing the first half with 11 points (on 5-for-10 shooting) to go along with four rebounds and three assists, including a nice dime to Marc Gasol to get the Raptors on the board first.

Take a look at how he picked his spots in the first 24 minutes:

It was in the second half, however, that Siakam struggled, scoring just six points (on 1-for-6 shooting) and committing a crucial turnover by stepping out of bounds late in the game. It wasn't all bad in the second half, as he did get to the line four times, grab four more rebounds and dish out an additional three assists.

What does "figuring it out" look like for Siakam, and is it as simple as just making shots?

While shot making is the ultimate decider in the outcome of games - more on that later - Toronto would benefit greatly from more marked aggression in transition and in the halfcourt, which, in turn, could allow him to manufacture more points by getting to the line.

Seeing a few layups and free throws go in could be the remedy for the overarching issues Siakam has dealt with this series.

Timely shot making

"I had a bunch of open looks tonight, I just missed them, honestly. They're challenging shots but - the shots are there, we just gotta make them." - Kyle Lowry

As cliché as it may sound, the NBA is indeed a make-or-miss league.

Through two games, the Celtics have shot 32-for-77 (41.6%) from beyond the arc, while the Raptors are shooting just 21-for-80 (26.3%) from 3-point range, a stark contrast between the two teams and a clear difference in the series early on.

For Boston, it's not just the fact that shots are going down, it's the timeliness of such shots, especially in Game 2:

3-point shooting in Game 2
Boston Celtics Toronto Raptors
8-for-27 (29.6%) Through three quarters 10-for-29 (34.5%)
7-for-11 (63.6%) 4th quarter 1-for-11 (9.1%)
15-for-38 (39.5%) Total 11-for-40 (27.5%)

Who could have predicted that Marcus Smart would catch fire and shoot 5-for-6 from 3 in the final frame after missing four of his first five attempts? Probably not too many people, but that's what makes the playoffs so special - Smart's timely shooting and ability to knock down crucial shots had a huge hand in winning Boston the game.

Call it an anomaly or impossible to replicate. Whatever the case may be, it's a 2-0 series because of it.

Smart is now 11-for-20 (55%) from 3 in the series with 85% of his attempts being classified as either open or wide open, per NBA.com's tracking data.

Will Toronto have to adjust its defensive scheme to account for Smart, or will Boston's newest sharpshooter cool off?

As simple as it sounds, hitting open shots is important, and the Raptors haven't been doing that so far. This series, Toronto is shooting 19-for-66 (28.7%) on 3s qualifying as open or wide open according to tracking data on NBA.com.

While the data is far from perfect and doesn't take defensive schemes into account, it gives an idea of the breadth of the Raptors struggles so far.

Lowry, who emphasized the need to make shots, is 1-for-8 on open looks this series while Fred VanVleet (5-for-19) and Pascal Siakam (1-for-5) have failed to connect on their open looks as well.

Lowry is right: Toronto can claw its way back into the series by hitting shots.

Boston's intensity to start

"These guys aren't going away. They're going to come back even stronger." - Kemba Walker

Kemba Walker has never been a part of an NBA team as special as this Celtics squad and as fate would have it, this Celtics team has never had a leader quite like Kemba Walker.

As Boston sits in position to essentially put Toronto away by taking a 3-0 series lead, the words of its leader let you know exactly what to expect in Game 3.

Walker understands the gravity of the moment and the championship DNA that exists within the Raptors locker room. The Celtics are facing a team that found itself in a similar position in the 2019 Eastern Conference Finals only to ring off four-straight wins to take the series.

The Celtics don't want to allow that to happen.

When you look at the makeup of this roster, there's a clear identity of no-nonsense, sticktoitiveness that is embodied - one way or another - by each and every member, but especially the core of Walker, Smart, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum.

It's this cohesion that's allowed this team to seamlessly incorporate Walker in his fist season and allowed Brown and Tatum to develop into the young stars that they are.

With that in mind, you should expect for this team to come out on a mission in Game 3 with high-level intensity and execution. In Game 1, Boston was the team to deliver the first few blows and Toronto was never fully able to recover.

For the better part of two games now, the Celtics have outplayed the Raptors.

We'll learn a lot about how Game 3 goes based on how each team performs in the first five minutes of the opening frame.

Series Schedule

Game 1 - Boston Celtics 112, Toronto Raptors 94

Game 2 - Boston Celtics 102, Toronto Raptors 99

Game 3 - Thursday, Sept. 3, 6:30 p.m. - TSN

Game 4 - Saturday, Sept. 5, 6:30 p.m. - Sportsnet

Game 5 - Monday, Sept. 7, TBD - TSN

Game 6 - Wednesday, Sept. 9, TBD - Sportsnet

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

Games 5-7 if necessary

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