The Champs Down, 0-2 Is It Over?
Life was great being a Raptors fan going through the regular season of the bubble, playing the G-league Brooklyn Nets in the first round. Things have changed though as they have run into the red hot Boston Celtics and now find themselves down 2-0. The question now is where do they go from here? Quite simply they have to go to Game 3 and put these two games behind you. This will be a test to see if the Raptors can learn from last year's championship run.
Game one was a complete wash, the Raptors just did not show up. At one point you had the Celtics shooting 50% from three compared to the Raptors 20%. The Raptors shot just 37% as a team and got out-rebounded by 10 in the game as well, despite being the much bigger team. They downright just did not show up and that does not require a further breakdown.
This brings us to game 2 of this series. Look you can blame the refs all you want, the Raps did not have a free throw in the first half, all while outscoring Boston in the paint, which is very unusual. That being said the Raptors stars did not show up and the Celtics stars did. Going into the 4th with a lead and seeing it quickly evaporate on Marcus Smarts threes is always tough to see and is unlikely to happen again, but you have to find ways to respond and keep the lead. With Smart being hot you had Kemba go cold all game except when it mattered in the clutch moments, hitting the dagger step-back mid-range on Ibaka. The Celtics had Brown controlling the game on both ends in the first half with Tatum attacking and getting to the line, further showing his superstar skill set. All the credit to Brad Stevens for outcoaching Nick Nurse so far in this series as well.
So what can the Raptors improve on? Honestly it comes down to your stars showing up and hitting shots. The Raptors are shooting 26% from three-point land this series and they have to break this cycle. The half-court offense needs a lot of work. The Celtics have shut down the transition offense and have forced the Raps to beat them in the halfcourt. This Raptors team does not have Kawhi Leonard walking through those doors, he can not win a game with his one on one offence. The Raptors need to use the pick and roll or get the ball moving in the half-court to create offence, the one on one game has not worked.
The Raptors bigs also need to step up, they have lost to the Celtics small frontcourt and frankly, that has to change. Maybe the answer is to match the small ball line up. Marc Gasol through two games has only 13 points on 5/11 shooting, so he either needs to get more involved or take a seat. The bench for the Raptors has done well all year but in this series outside of Ibaka they have no one else coming into the game and effecting it. They are going to need someone else to step up and provide help on both sides of the ball going forward. Norman Powell has only 14 points in two games, despite averaging 17 points during the regular season. Shooting an abysmal 5/17 for the series is hurting the Raptors big time so he needs a big game three performance.
I still think that adjustments will be made and this is a series that is going to go deep, but winning 4 of the next 5 is going to be tough. Nick Nurse, this years Coach of the Year, needs to make those adjustments quickly to make this a longer series. Game 3 goes Thursday and this is now a must-win game for the Raptors. Pascal Siakam must step up, as he is just 11-32 in the series otherwise the Raptors could find themselves on the verge of a sweep.
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