You knew that at some point in this series the Raptors were eventually gonna hit a bunch of threes, right? Three frustrating games of sub-30% shooting finally gave way to a 17-for-44 night, and 10 more made threes than the Celtics, which made the difference in a game where the Celtics shot better overall from the field and hit more free throws than the Raptors.
Before we get to the Game 4 thoughts, I’d like to once again highlight the terrible living conditions Canada has created for our Indigenous people. After years and years of neglect and abuse, Canada’s First Nations now have some of the highest suicide rates in the world, and in fact the leading cause of death for First Nations people under the age of 44 is suicide or self-harm. Our Indigenous people deserve better mental health and wellness support.
You can learn more about this issue in Tanya Talaga’s book and lecture series, All Our Relations; meanwhile, the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention remains an invaluable resource for anyone who’s had thoughts of self-harm or is worried about someone who has.
OK, let’s think some thoughts:
1. Kyle Lowry Masterclass 2.0
For the second straight game Kyle Lowry was the best player on the floor, and an absolute joy to watch. It’s almost like he gave Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam two games, and then pulled a Thanos and said “fine, I’ll do it myself.”
How about some Kyle Lowry Winning Plays (TM) to help you wake up this Sunday morning. First, breaking up an alley-oop for a guy who’s eight inches taller:
Kyle Lowry breaking up a lob to Robert Williams III, one of the most spectacular defensive plays I've seen him make. pic.twitter.com/567ODEheM6— Vivek Jacob (@vivekmjacob) September 6, 2020
Second, the lovely little drop-off for a trailing Pascal Siakam:
Then, diving on the floor after knocking a ball away from Jayson Tatum (and having Tatum land right on those balls of steel):
And let’s not forget the three offensive fouls drawn, including the game-sealing one on Tatum with 32 seconds to go:
Lowry also finished with 11 rebounds, tying Serge Ibaka for the game high, and didn’t miss one of his game-high eight free throw attempts.
2. Threes, but Balance Please
So the Raptors finally started to get some threes to fall, which was great... but then maybe fell in love with the shot a little too much, ending up with a series-high 44 attempts.
After they finished 6-of-13 in the first quarter, the second seemed like the ideal time to try and establish an inside presence. Use one to set up the other, right? Instead the Raps shot another 13 threes in the frame, with Pascal Siakam attempting four (and missing all of them).
They course-corrected in the second half (and of course we have to credit the Celtics defense too), so here’s hoping the Raptors can find a better shot balance and shoot an even higher percentage from downtown in Games 5 and 6.
3. Responding to Celtics Small Ball
I’ve expressed my desire to see the Raptors break out the smaller, Siakam-at-centre lineup, and once again I was left hanging — though this time, it wasn’t needed, and Serge Ibaka’s scoring certainly was. I was a bit surprised, though, to see the Celtics use a centre-less lineup for more than six minutes last night, including the first five minutes of the fourth quarter.
The Raptors did their best to take advantage; they went inside on several possessions in that stretch, and got a nice dunk from Ibaka, an offensive rebound from Ibaka, and drives from Norman Powell and Pascal Siakam. Still, the stretch ended even, with both teams scoring 10 points (and the Celtics actually out-rebounding the Raptors by one).
I’m not certain what precipitated Brad Stevens opting to sit both of Daniel Theis and Robert Williams III at once, as both have played well. But if he does it again, I like the Raptors’ chances.
4. Sky High OG
I’ve always been a big fan of OG Anunoby showing us his hops:
I still think there are more opportunities for Anunoby to make his presence felt on offense in this series. The Celtics have done a better job not shading as far off of Anunoby after his 20-point Game 2, but I still noticed a few plays where VanVleet and Siakam attempted to break down the D, and OG had extra space on the wings, but the ball didn’t find its way to him. I also think there are also some opportunities for cuts to be made when Marc Gasol is on the floor — although again, to Boston’s credit, I noticed Theis crowding Gasol more last night, making it difficult for him to see the floor as well.
5. Hate to Love ‘em
Generally speaking, it’s very easy to hate the Celtics as a franchise, especially when they’re playing against your favourite team. But Jaylen Brown’s activism and leadership heading into and during the Bubble made it very difficult to dislike him, and then Jayson Tatum had to go and do this:
I asked @jaytatum0 about his Lion King lunchbox:— Cassidy Hubbarth (@CassidyHubbarth) September 6, 2020
“Deuce loves lions and loves Lion King and I always carry my food to the game so it’s just a little something for when he sees the picture he sees that daddy has a Lion King lunchbox.”
And then Brown gave us a wonderful 4-for-18 shooting performance, including 2-for-11 from downtown! This, following Tatum’s 5-for-18 in Game 3. They’re really trying to make us love them, aren’t they?
(I’d love to give all the credit to the Raptors D here for that poor shooting, and of course they do make things uncomfortable for shooters. But Brown was just way off last night, even when he was wide open.)
We’ve seen the Raptors’ shooting “regress to the norm” in this series, so after a couple of bad shooting performances, I’ll admit I’m worried about the Celtics wings turning things around in Game 5. (Tatum and Kemba Walker remain terrifying whenever they turn the corner on the pick and roll up top, too — it feels like it leads to a score 100% of the time.)
If that happens, at least it’ll be a little easier to dislike them again.
So, there’s still a lot of series left to be played, and I don’t think the Celtics are going to go down easily. I’m glad this is going (at least) six games, though — I truly wasn’t ready to say goodbye to the 2019-20 Raptors yet.