- Javid Lalva
Game 7: Win or Go Home
What a series this has been, Boston being up 2-0 to now the Raptors bringing the series to a Game 7 with a never quit attitude in Game 6 to win in double OT. Before this series, most people predicted this was going to go the distance, but I think most of them are now surprised we are here. In Game 6, we saw the heart of a champion push this series to the brink. The Celtics can be upset at Nick Nurse for standing on the edge of the court or calls not going their way, but the truth is Boston had many chances to close this series and they have squandered them, take it back to Game 3 with the buzzer-beater by OG or even in Game 6 where they missed many open opportunities and had many costly turnovers in key moments down the stretch.
There are several keys for Game 7 that the Raptors need to abide by to see them return to the East Finals:
Keep mixing the defence on Boston, starting the game in a Box-1 against Kemba threw his game off. Walker played 51 mins and finished with 5 points on 2 of 11 shooting. He has been the key to Boston moving the ball because when he is hitting his jump shots he furthers opens the offence for the Celtics. This makes it difficult for the Raptors to contain them and so by mixing up the defence they can keep Kemba off of his game and limit the other weapons on Boston. When Kemba scores 20 points they are 4-1 in these playoffs, they need to keep Kemba off of the scoreboard.
On the Raptors side, their best player Kyle Lowry needs to continue to be the best player for them to win. The heart and soul of the Raptors has played ALOT of minutes this series. Game 6 saw Lowry have a career-high 53 minutes so you have to wonder if all the minutes he has played will it impact Kyle who is 34 years old. If Lowry can somehow keep fighting the fatigue, they can continue to ball. Lowry finished Game 6 with 33 points knocking down 6 threes, so if he does that again he will carry the Raptors to a win in Game 7.
Lost in the epic Game 6 is the Raptors who have discovered a new small-ball lineup with OG playing the 5. They also play Pascal at the 4 with Norm, Fred and Kyle playing the wing/guard spots. This 5 man lineup played the last 8 minutes plus both overtimes (outside of couple rebounding and inbounding subs) together and they caused a lot of trouble to the Boston offence. Now while they gave up a couple of easy buckets to Daniel Theis, the speed this line up brought minimized the effects of Bostons high pick and roll. Boston relies on the speed allowed the Raptors to keep up with switches and keep the pressure on the Boston scorers and forcing bad shots and turnovers.
The awakening of Playoff Powell, when the team needed him most was huge as Powell scored 6 clutch points in the second overtime and created a key turnover on Jayson Tatum. If Norman can add to Ibaka's play off of the bench this will help. The Raptors bench, which was supposed to be a key in this series, has been a weak point. This has led to Nurse keep Fred and Kyle on the court to play all those minutes. If Norm can step up again in Game 7 and deliver, this will make it easy on the Raptors to secure a win.
There is a lot of negative talk about Pascal and it is true that he has been struggling all series. It continued in Game 6 with an abysmal 5/16 shooting night and going 2/4 from the line. Nurse played him a game-high 54 minutes and a lot of people are asking why or calling for Pascal to be benched. I know it is hard to watch him force his game and miss shots as he has but look at the other aspects of his game. He had 6 assists in that game, which shows that he is moving the ball and getting guys in the position to score. He also had 2 steals and you see him engaged on the defensive side of the ball guarding Tatum. If he can find a way to not force his shots and let the game come to him, this can help his offence. We saw Nurse run plays for Pascal to get him going right from the start and we will likely see this again. Raptors fans can only hope Siakam can find his offence because if he does this could be a long night for the Celtics.
This series has had a lot of up and downs and it has lived up to the expectations, win or lose the Raptors should be proud of what they have done this season and on this run in the playoffs. This should be a phenomenal game to watch for sure and you will not want to miss it.
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