Following Toronto’s loss in Game 2, Nick Nurse was asked about Jayson Tatum, who scored a game high 34 points while going 14-for-14 from the line, and how frustrating it was to see him takeover. “The only frustrating part about it is this: He shoots 14 free throws, which is as much as our whole team shoots … They took very good care of him tonight.”
On Pascal Siakam’s drive late in the game, Nurse added: “I think [Marcus] Smart fouled the s—t out of him.” Nevertheless, the league’s Last Two Minute report confirmed the calls that had gone Boston’s way. If there’s any solace to take from the Game 2 outcome, it’s that the NBA decided to fine Marcus Smart for flopping in the third quarter.
NBA is fining Boston's Marcus Smart $5K for flopping in Game 2 victory over Toronto, source tells ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) September 2, 2020
What one fan base sees as whining, the other can see as gamesmanship. Nurse took a page from Hall of Fame coach Phil Jackson with his efforts to publicly lobby and influence officiating with his post-game comments. Jackson’s comments would sometimes take money out his pockets, but when he was asked if he was planting seeds in officials’ minds, he replied “I’m a gardener, constantly.” Nurse will hope the tide turns and gives Toronto some more favourable calls. And for a series that could go seven games, Nurse could be gardening a whole lot more than he’d like.
Being down 2-0 to the Celtics would be much more devastating if things were normal. Already in this postseason we saw the Thunder overcome a 2-0 deficit to force a Game 7 while the Nuggets came back to win the series after being down 3-1. The Bubble offers a lot for the players when it comes to traveling and scheduling, but the most important thing stays the same: there is no home court advantage. In the past, Toronto would have a much harder hill to climb if Game 3 was in Boston. But everyone is still in Orlando.
It’s first to four and Toronto will have to pick it up if they want to make this a series. It starts tonight in what is, as always, a must-win. Here are the details for tonight’s game.
Where to Watch:
TSN 6:30 PM EST
Toronto – Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol
Boston – Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Daniel Theis
Toronto – Patrick McCaw (knee – OUT), Oshae Brissett (knee – OUT),
Boston – Tremont Waters (knee – day-to-day), Javonte Green (knee – OUT), Gordon Hayward (ankle – OUT)
Dreadful from Distance
In the two games this series, Serge Ibaka and OG Anunoby have been the only reliable distance shooters for the Raptors. Ibaka is shooting 6-of-12, while Anunoby has hit 5-of-9 from three. Toronto, as a whole, have been dreadful from deep. They shot 10-40 in Game 1 then followed it up by shooting 11-40 in Game 2. Toronto can not win this series shooting below 30 percent from three.
The Boston defense has been giving Toronto good looks through the first two games, but they haven’t been able to take advantage. Boston’s drop coverage on the pick-and-roll has given Fred VanVleet and Kyle Lowry ample space to get off a high-quality shot. Making just a few of them can open the court for the rest of the team. Marc Gasol has yet to make Boston pay on the pop going 0-of-5 from three while turning down open looks through the first two games. It may sound reductive to say this again, but it’s no less true: if Toronto hits a few more threes, this is a whole different series.
Battle of the Benches
Celtics bigman Robert Williams is shooting 10-for-10 from the field this series and is averaging 10.5 points per game off the bench. The Boston bench is not known for their scoring as Brad Wanamaker, Semi Ojeleye, and Grant Williams are not really offensive threats. Toronto is the deeper team on paper — but they are not playing like it.
Chris Boucher saw his first minutes of the series in Game 2 and went scoreless in nine minutes. Norman Powell, who averaged 15 points per game on the season, finished Game 2 with just four points. Meanwhile, Serge Ibaka, standing out once again offensively, had 17. Through two games, it’s already apparent that Ibaka needs more help from the bench. Last season, Toronto had VanVleet in that role — particularly in the later rounds of the playoffs. This season, someone else needs to take that mantle, whether it’s Powell, Chris Boucher, Terence Davis, or even Matt Thomas. The Raptors need some more production from someone.
The Full 48
In Game 1, Toronto lost the first quarter 39-23. In Game 2, they managed to bounce back and tied the opening frame at 28-28. However, in the 4th of Game 2, they lost the quarter 32-21 behind some disastrous offensive execution. Toronto has not played a consistent 48 through the first two games of the series. It is important to keep pace early and late because Toronto has actually been solid through the middle quarters.
Now, it’s not everyday that Marcus Smart hits five 3s in the fourth quarter — including a four-point play — and finishes 6-of-11 in the game. (Though he did shoot well in Game 1 as well, so who knows.) Meanwhile, Kemba Walker does not normally shoot 1-of-8 from three. Some of these shooting numbers should balance out over the course of a series. Toronto cannot give Boston early leads because with their firepower, they can — and will — get going and increase those leads. In Game 2, it looked like Toronto had taken control in the third, but then — flukey or not — the Celtics found a way back in. So, while Walker and Smart may impact the game in very different ways, it amounted to the same thing. Let’s see if Toronto can build an early lead in Game 3 and play at a high level for the full 48.