The Boston Celtics are coming off a fairly easy first-round matchup where they swept the Sixers in four games, not allowing the shorthanded Philadelphia team a chance to steal even one game. Meanwhile, the Raptors executed their own sweep, but it wasn't easy as the scrappy Brooklyn Nets made life difficult for Toronto on more than one occasion to squeeze out four wins.
After taking care of business in the opening round, things will get a lot tougher for each team when they face off in the Eastern Conference semifinals for a series that is incredibly evenly matched and should provide many exciting finishes. Game 1 tips Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.
Believe it or not, this marks the first-ever meeting between these teams in the playoffs, and both enter the series red hot: The Raptors have won eight straight games, while the Celtics are winners of eight of their last nine. Boston is 3-1 vs. Toronto in the regular season. Here's everything you need to know ahead of Game 1 between the Raptors and Celtics.
- Date: Sunday, Aug. 30 | Time: 1 p.m. ET
- Location: Disney Wide World of Sports -- Orlando, Florida
- TV: ESPN I Stream: fuboTV (try for free)
- Odds: Raptors -2 | Over/Under: 217 (via William Hill Sportsbook)
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Raptors: While Tatum took awhile to get going during the seeding schedule in the bubble, he had no difficulty scoring at will against the Sixers. In four games, he averaged 27 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists while shooting the ball extremely well from the field (48.7 percent) and deep (45.2 percent). He took advantage of Philly's defenders every single game, as they had no real way to slow him down.
This could likely change against the Raptors, a much more defensively stout team than a Sixers squad that was without their best defender in Ben Simmons. In four games against the Raptors this season, Tatum was held to under 20 points in three of those matchups. On their Christmas Day matchup, Tatum put up just 11 points, as the Raptors threw an array of different defenders at the Celtics star to make him uncomfortable. Boston will surely try to get switches for smaller guys like Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet to guard Tatum, however, Lowry's veteran savvy and all-around pesky defensive nature isn't all that ideal for Tatum when he's trying to drive to the basket or pull up for a jumper.
Still, though, Lowry has been the main defender on Tatum the most this season, and in that time the All-Star point guard has matched up on him, Tatum has shot 63.6 percent from the field. That certainly isn't what Toronto wants, and will look to OG Anunoby to pick up the tough assignment of guarding Tatum.
Celtics: Just as they did in the regular season, the Raptors flexed their muscle against the Brooklyn Nets in the first round with their transition offense. This team wants to get out and run on offense, and if they can create a miss or a turnover, they're incredibly dangerous in the open court. Toronto averaged a league-leading 18.8 points per game in transition in the regular season, with Pascal Siakam ranking seventh in the league in points scored in transition per game (5.5).
It's not just Siakam, though, who's dangerous in transition. As soon as Toronto grabs a rebound or secures a steal, the team is off and running to the other end of the floor, with multiple options present to score. It could even be a two-on-three situation and the Raptors would still have the upper hand because of their ability to know where each other are and what spots to pick on the floor to put the team in the best position to get a bucket. It doesn't even have to be off a miss or a steal, if the Raptors sense any lapse from the defense, they're charging at full speed toward you and it's incredibly difficult to stop. Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet can get you with the transition 3-pointer, or the drive and kick out to someone on the wing, or Siakam can break the defense down on his way to the bucket for an easy two points. Boston is going to have its hands full trying to contain the explosive offense that the Raptors have, but it helps that the Celtics allow the least amount of transition points in the league (4.8). It's going to be two strong forces going at it in this series, which will surely create some exciting, competitive games.
On paper, this is a very evenly matched series. Each team plays very solid ball on both ends of the floor, and each is well coached. Boston, however, has three players -- Jayson Tatum, Kemba Walker, and Jaylen Brown -- capable of going for 30-plus on any given night. While Toronto is stout defensively, it will be a tall task to slow down all three of those guys simultaneously, especially in the premier game of the series. If Boston's trio is able to get in a rhythm, it could be tough for Toronto to keep up on the offensive end. Pick: Celtics +2