The Boston Celtics opened up an early lead against the Toronto Raptors and never looked back as there were zero lead changes throughout the entire game.
The Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors returned to play after a necessary break in playoff action.
While basketball is fun, and we will get to our player grades, it’s essential to understand that this is bigger than basketball. Real change must come from those at the top.
Police reform, access to voting, and even larger scale economic policy reforms are essential issues to keep in mind and consider while we have the luxury of enjoying sports.
Before we move onto the game analysis, let’s first give the players in both the NBA and WNBA an overall A+ grade on their ability to change the conversation around social justice and their stance in an important place in the sports world.
While this piece was published before the decision to resume play, I’d recommend reading fellow Houdini member Andrew Hughes’ piece on social justice within the NBA.
Now, we move back to basketball…
The Boston Celtics opened up an early lead against the Raptors and never looked back as there were zero lead changes throughout the entire game. While Toronto still scored with ease in transition, they suffered from a historically poor shooting and failed to convert on their half-court sets.
The ball movement was crisp as Boston made a statement in their game one victory.
Kemba Walker: A
What good is the scoring column when you’ve dished out an impressive ten assists on only two turnovers. While the Boston Celtics’ supporting cast, to their credit, made their shots — as six of his ten assists resulted in made three-pointers — most of these were in-rhythm looks where Walker found the seam and hit an open Celtic with a well-placed pass.
While Walker had a scary second-quarter collision, he was locked in as he finished a +25 on the night.
On paper, Walker’s performance defensively wasn’t eye-popping by the boxscore, but his on-ball defense via the NBA’s tracking data and effort level on Lowry and VanVleet was something to note.
He sacrificed his body in transition, drawing a charge against Siakam and only finished with a single foul in exactly 32 minutes of play. Because the Raptors are so skilled in transition, Walker’s speed and ability to get back on defense will be necessary as the Celtics head into game two.
Jayson Tatum: B+
The calls were not going Jayson Tatum‘s way tonight as he got to the line once in 37 minutes of play.
Tatum also struggled to get going initially, shooting 4-11 from the field in the first half, but in typical Jayson Tatum fashion, he picked it up during the third quarter. The All-Star finished the game with 21 points on 57 percent true shooting as he was also on the receiving end of some occasional Toronto double teams.
Even though four turnovers isn’t necessarily deserving of a B+ grade, Tatum was active on other fronts, snatching nine rebounds and not committing a single foul during 37 minutes of play.
He was still able to get to his spots and create as two-thirds of all his shots came without an assist. While he showed visible and promising signs of playmaking during the 76ers series, we didn’t get a chance to witness the percolating concept of the Tatum-Brown pick-and-roll during this game.
While we likely won’t see him as a primary passer due to Toronto’s defensive depth, monitoring Tatum as a playmaker is certainly an interesting experiment that may be in the works.
Jaylen Brown: B
Similar to Tatum, Jaylen Brown had a very tale-of-two halves type of game. However for Brown, in terms of production, the order was reversed.
Brown’s hot early start was coupled with a rough 6-18 shooting night as he also found himself in foul trouble towards the start of the fourth quarter. In the earlier touched-upon idea of Jayson Tatum as a playmaking hub, Brown, himself, showed the ability to create for others as two of his four assists came on downhill drives to the basket where he found the open man.
Brown was engaged defensively but perhaps a tad overeager when guarding the shot, as four of Brown’s five fouls came in the act of shooting. Brown, Smart, and Ojeleye seemed to switch off possessions guarding Siakam in the post, as Brown, at times, struggled when defending Siakam.
Brown’s regular-season track record against Siakam is a promising sign moving forward outside of tonight’s performance.
Interestingly enough, while they only faced each other twice during the regular season, Siakam is Brown’s most guarded matchup of any player this season per NBA tracking data. During their outings, Brown held Siakam to 41 percent from the field on 24 shot attempts as he only fouled him once in the act of shooting.
Let’s hope Brown can replicate this regular-season defensive efficiency as we move on to game two.
Daniel Theis: A
Want to say it with me? Daniel Theis is nice!
Aside from some early foul trouble and failing to convert on his two three-point attempts, Theis set his playoff-high for rebounds as he finished with an extremely impressive 15 total boards on the night, 13 of which came on the defensive side of the floor.
His physicality on the glass even frustrated Serge Ibaka enough to commit a flagrant foul.
Equally as impressive, Theis was also 7-7 from the free-throw line, accounting for exactly one-third of all Boston Celtics free-throw attempts. It’s important to note that against the 76ers, Theis only got to the line five times throughout four games.
While 15 rebounds in 25 minutes are tough to replicate, the Cs need this kind of aggression from their big man against Toronto’s significant frontcourt size advantage.
Again, one more time:
Daniel Theis is nice!
Marcus Smart: A-
After going 2-15 from beyond the arc during the Philadelphia series, Marcus Smart had his bounceback shooting game. He was red hot from downtown, as he shot 5-9 from three-point range and finished the night with 21 points on 60 percent shooting from the field.
Not known for being a high volume (17 percent of all regular-season threes came from the corners) or efficient (36 percent from the left and 26 percent from the right) corner three-point shooter, all of Smart’s five makes came from the corners.
Smart’s makes weren’t the typical, wide-open, all-the-time in the world corner three-pointers, which makes this fact even more impressive. The majority of his makes were closely contested as this is a promising sign moving forward.
As usual, Smart took some possessions guarding Pascal Siakam in the post, where he held his ground and did an excellent job of not fouling. Kemba Walker wasn’t the only one taking charges on Siakam as Smart drew crucial contact, leading to Siakam missing nine early minutes due to foul trouble.
Smart dished out four assists, had timely box-outs, and even made the typical get-back in the play steal after an errant turnover play.
Despite turning the ball over five times, Smart was a +27 on the night, as he finished with the highest +/- of any Celtic.
Robert Williams: A-
As noted by Zach Lowe, if the shamrocks can get good play from their centers, they are virtually one of the league’s top teams. Daniel Theis plus Robert Williams gave them that needed quality center play, as Williams had his best playoff performance as a member of the Boston Celtics.
Williams even got himself a rare playoff windmill dunk and was very productive on both sides of the court.
He collected five rebounds, had two blocks, and went 5-5 from the floor. While he showed visible signs of fatigue at times and wasn’t up in Serge Ibaka’s air space, on two, early, back-to-back three-pointers, Williams gave the Celtics added needed defensive flexibility.
His ability to run the floor will make him a crucial rotation player against a transition heavy Toronto Raptors team.
Brad Wanamaker: B-
The consistency and professionalism brought by Brad Wanamaker on a nightly basis is something Boston Celtics fans take for granted.
On the night, he finished with seven points on 2-6 shooting, six rebounds, and three turnovers, but the fact that the Celtics coaching staff gave Wanamaker ample playing time is a testament to his rock-solid consistency.
On defense, Wanamaker matches up well against Toronto’s quick and strong guards as Boston will surely give him 20+ minutes a night throughout this series.
Semi Ojeleye: B+
Similar to Wanamaker, Semi Ojeleye gave the Cs quality defensive minutes despite going 1-5 from the field. Ojeleye actually should have been 2-6 from beyond the arc if it weren’t for Ibaka’s flagrant foul on Daniel Theis.
In typical low-usage form, Ojeleye’s presence was felt outside of the traditional box score.
His B+ grade comes because of his extremely clutch defensive stands against Pascal Siakam in the post. Three of Siakam’s last four misses came against Ojeleye, as they were almost all the same exact play.
On these three post-ups, Ojeleye played defense with his chest as he prevented Siakam from getting to his spots without fouling. His performance against Siakam may remind Boston Celtics fans of his defensive body of work during the 2017-18 playoffs against the Milwaukee Bucks, where he stood out as one of the best brick wall/ on-ball defenders against Giannis Antemtepumpko.