The Raptors are down 2-0 against the Boston Celtics. Game 3 - aka the biggest game of the year for Toronto - is set for Thursday.
We can assume adjustments will be made by Coach of the Year Nick Nurse. We can also assume that the Raptors will shoot better from the field than they have in the first two games of the series. But will that be enough?
We asked our NBA.com Staff who needs to step up the most to get Toronto back in the series.
Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay): Look, the obvious answer is Pascal Siakam and I expect him to show up in this series at some point, but I'm going with Norman Powell.
Powell has disappeared at the worst possible time for the Raptors. He's shooting just 29.4 percent from the field in this series and is averaging less than an assist and rebound in 19.9 minutes per game. That's not good enough.
Toronto's bench was supposed to be an advantage coming into this series with Boston, especially with Gordon Hayward out of the lineup. Powell was a big reason why with the leap he took this season. He's given the Raptors next to nothing to start the series, and they are now down 2-0 against a very tough Celtics squad.
Game 3 has to be a "Playoff Powell" game if Toronto plans on extending their bubble stay.
Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles): The answer is Pascal Siakam.
To no surprise, the Raptors are a different team when Siakam plays well. During the regular season, he averaged 24.1 points per game on .478/.382/.804 shooting splits in the team's wins. In losses, those figures plummeted to 18.8 points per game on .373/.282/.741 splits.
His numbers aren't far off the latter so far in this series: 15.0 points per game on .344/.143/.875 splits.
Siakam wasn't great offensively in Toronto's first-round series with the Brooklyn Nets, but they can't afford for him to be subpar to have any chance of beating the Celtics in the second round. One, because they need him to apply pressure on the Celtics in transition, which is where both Siakam and the Raptors are at their best. (No team generated more scoring in transition than the Raptors this season and only four players averaged more points per game than Siakam on those plays. The Celtics know that, but the Raptors need to keep their foot on the gas). Two, because Siakam is Toronto's best shot at being able to beat the Celtics in the halfcourt, where the Raptors have struggled so far in this series.
Whether or not Siakam is at the stage of his career where he's capable of carrying that sort of load is a different conversation, but he has been Toronto's best scorer all season long. If he can't get back on track, it's going to be hard for the Raptors to make this much of a series.
Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21): The Raptors need more from Marc Gasol.
I realize that at this point in his career, we're not to expect the type of numbers we saw from Gasol in the playoffs during his tenure with the Memphis Grizzlies, but I do think he's much better than what he's shown to start this series.
Through two games, Gasol is averaging 6.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.5 assists and has failed to connect on any of his five 3-point attempts.
Beyond the numbers, there's a certain presence that Gasol has on the floor that is felt on both ends. At his best, Gasol helps the halfcourt offence with his ability as a passer while on defence, he anchors and discourages the opposing team.
At times this series, I have forgotten he was in the game. Granted, being in foul trouble didn't help his case in Game 2, and that is a separate issue of its own.
Coming into the series, I felt Toronto's frontcourt was a clear advantage over Boston that could serve as an equalizer. While Serge Ibaka is coming off of a strong Game 2, we've seen Daniel Theis and Robert Williams III play great basketball for Boston. The Cs might have been out of luck in Game 2 had Williams not scored 10 quick ones early on.
I fully believe Marc is capable of bouncing back to make his presence felt, provided he stays out of foul trouble and is threatening on the offensive end. When Gasol is aggressive, the Raptors are much much better.
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