Close, but no cigar.
Led by Jayson Tatum's 34 points, the Boston Celtics defeated the Toronto Raptors by a final score of 102-99 in Game 2 of their second-round series to take a 2-0 lead.
The game came down to the wire, with Raptors guard Fred VanVleet missing a 3-pointer in the closing seconds that would've forced overtime.
For more on the game, here are some quick observations...
1. The little things
Some good news for the Raptors? They threw the first punch in Game 2.
As pointed out on the broadcast, the Raptors scored two points on 1-for-10 shooting from the field in the first six minutes of their seeding game against the Celtics. In Game 1 of this series, they scored eight points on 3-for-10 shooting during that span. In Game 2? 15 points on 7-for-10 shooting.
Pascal Siakam set the tone early for the Raptors. He finished the first quarter with only four points, but Nick Nurse put the ball in his hands to start the game, using him as the initiator on offence while Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet flew around screens. Siakam was able to force a couple of favourable switches and was quick to attack the mismatch in the post before making the right read when the Celtics collapsed.
The Raptors were also able to score a couple of early baskets in transition off of turnovers, which isn't something that happened much in Game 1.
Vintage defence to offence pic.twitter.com/p2Yccr8g2H- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) September 1, 2020
On the other end, the Raptors held the Celtics to nine points.
All in all, a much better start.
2. OG Anunoby, shooting with confidence
This isn't something we saw much of from Anunoby this season:
OG level confidence pic.twitter.com/QzYVPvLQ55- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) September 1, 2020
According to NBA.com, all but eight of Anunoby's 3-point attempts this season were open or wide open, meaning the closest his defender was to him was four feet. To catch the ball early in the shot clock and rise up over Jaylen Brown following a jab step and shot fake? Confidence indeed.
To boot, Anunoby made a pair of 3-pointers in the third quarter after getting his defender up in the air with one dribble. Anunoby attempted only 16 3-pointers following one dribble in the regular season, per NBA.com, of which he made six.
Again, this isn't something we saw much of from Anunoby this season:
Buckets by OG pic.twitter.com/nltCvUkwRh- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) September 1, 2020
Anunoby continues to make important strides in the development department.
3. Robert Williams does it again
Williams was the difference-maker for the Celtics in the first quarter.
On the heels of an impressive Game 1, in which he scored 10 points on a perfect 5-for-5 shooting from the field, Williams was the first player off the bench for the Celtics and made the most of the opportunity, snapping them out of a sluggish start with another 10 points on another 5-for-5 shooting.
Williams was catching lobs...
Lob to Rob 😂 pic.twitter.com/wpHy1YJBfx- Boston Celtics (@celtics) September 1, 2020
...attacking the glass...
Time Lord is taking over in Orlando ⏰👑👀 pic.twitter.com/lDxBC8RLyc- Boston Celtics (@celtics) September 1, 2020
...he even made a jump shot to close the quarter. (According to NBA.com, Williams made a total of five shots outside of the paint this season. That's how you know that he was feeling it).
watch out, Time Lord's hitting jumpers too 👀 pic.twitter.com/5Aq86XO3n2- Boston Celtics (@celtics) September 1, 2020
"He pretty much saved us," Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said of Williams at the end of the first quarter, pointing to Boston's inability to match Toronto's pace to open the game.
Williams left the game following to receive treatment on his back, which he appeared to injure on that putback dunk, but he returned early in the second quarter and continued to make a difference. He finished Game 2 with 11 points, four rebounds and one block in 17 minutes.
4. A spicy end to the half
This was a two-point game at the half thanks to a last-second 3-pointer from Siakam to end the second quarter.
Spicy end to the half pic.twitter.com/Up82A66feC- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) September 1, 2020
That 3-pointer gave Siakam 11 points in the game, almost matching his point total in Game 1.
5. Getting to the line
So, uhh, the Raptors went the entire first half without attempting a free throw.
According to Sportsnet, it's only the second time in franchise history that the Raptors have failed to get to the free throw line in the first half of a playoff game.
The last time they did it? Game 4 of the 2016 Eastern Conference Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Raptors attempt 0 free throws in the 1st half of a playoff game for just the 2nd time in franchise history- Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) September 1, 2020
Had 0 FT attempts in Game 4 of 2016 East Finals vs Cavs#WeTheNorth
Toronto's first free throws of the game came at the 10:21 mark in the third quarter from Marc Gasol of all people.
There's a good chance that keeping the Raptors off the free throw line was a point of emphasis for the Celtics after they attempted 29 free throws in Game 1.
If so, mission accomplished.
6. Marcus Smart will do anything to draw a foul
I mean, you have to respect the effort here:
Vintage Marcus Smart flop pic.twitter.com/bYFKbSlkut- CJ Fogler #BlackLivesMatter (@cjzero) September 1, 2020
The referees initially called an offensive foul on Siakam, only for it to be overturned after Nurse called for a review.
So close, Smart. So close.
Speaking of Smart...
7. Marcus Smart turns into Stephen Curry
Through three quarters of play, Smart was 1-for-5 from 3-point range.
Naturally, Smart then opened the third quarter by making five straight 3-pointers to get the Celtics back in the game.
Three of those 3s were set up by Tatum, who was carving the Raptors up with his passing.
3 straight Marcus Smart 3's! 🔥@celtics 79@Raptors 80- NBA (@NBA) September 1, 2020
Early in the 4th on ESPN pic.twitter.com/MPi2FZKN2D
A few possessions later, Smart gave the Celtics their first lead of the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer that he was fouled on.
MAKE THAT 5 pic.twitter.com/7OdfqTefrH- Boston Celtics (@celtics) September 1, 2020
That set the stage for a back-and-forth down the stretch.
8. Cardiac Kemba
This is why the Celtics signed Kemba Walker.
Similar to Smart, Walker wasn't having a great game - he had six points on 2-for-14 shooting from the field, including 0-for-7 from 3-point range, entering the fourth quarter - but that didn't prevent him from making two huge shots that decided the game.
The first, a 3-pointer that put the Celtics ahead by six points with 2:24 to play.
BIG SHOT pic.twitter.com/FS8LIInK6Z- Boston Celtics (@celtics) September 2, 2020
The second, a tough stepback over Serge Ibaka to give the Celtics a three point lead with 41.6 seconds to play.
THE CARDIAC STEPBACK pic.twitter.com/pUW4slY389- Boston Celtics (@celtics) September 2, 2020
That turned out to be the beginning of the end for the Raptors. Their final three possessions: Siakam missed layup, Siakam turnover, VanVleet missed 3.
9. What's next
The Raptors and Celtics will face off in Game 3 at 6:30 p.m. ET on Thursday, Sept. 3.
The Raptors, of course, were down 2-0 in their Eastern Conference Finals meeting with the Milwaukee Bucks last season before winning in six. Do they have another comeback in them?
Catch you then.
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