Celtics, Raptors Back to Square One after Toronto Takes Game 4

After winning their first six playoff contests, including Games 1 and 2 of their Eastern Conference semifinal matchup against Toronto, the Boston Celtics have finally entered their first postseason lull.

On Thursday night, the Raptors halted Boston’s winning streak on a miraculous last-second 3-pointer by OG Anunoby. After stealing Game 3, Toronto came out Saturday night and thoroughly out-performed the C’s in a series-tying, 100-93 Game 4 victory.

The Celtics, however, are not fretting over the sudden shift in momentum, as they know exactly what they must correct in order seize back control Monday night in Game 5.

Looking back on Saturday night’s loss there were two glaring issues that Boston faced: long-range shooting struggles, along with a 24-12 disadvantage in second-chance points.

The first issue was simply an anomaly. The C's shot just 20 percent (7-of-35) from 3-point range, marking their lowest efficiency from beyond the arc since Game 5 of last year’s Eastern Conference semifinal against Milwaukee. Toronto, meanwhile, had its best 3-point shooting game of the series, as it knocked down 38.6 percent (17-of-44) of its shots from distance.

Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart and Kemba Walker all shot 1-of-6 from deep, while Jaylen Brown, the most efficient starter from long range, shot 2-of-11. On any given night, you might see one of those players struggle from deep, two tops. But to have all four of them struggle? That’s just some bad luck.

“Honestly man, I thought we had great looks,” said Walker, who finished with 15 points and a game-high eight assists. “I thought we had great looks throughout the whole game. We just really missed. We missed a lot of open ones that we know we can make.”

As for the massive differential in second-chance points, that’s more of an effort issue. Also, easily correctable.

“We just turned out heads and didn’t block out,” said C’s coach Brad Stevens. “We just have to be more alert to that. We have to do a better job of slashing, cutting, exchanging on the weak side on pick-and-rolls. We have to communicate, find bodies. Do all that. But credit them for going and getting all those extra points. Those matter in a series like this.”

The most encouraging part about Game 4 was that despite Boston’s two glaring issues, it still came within striking distance of a win. A team that shoots 20 percent from three while also getting doubled up in second-chance points shouldn’t have any business being in a close game, yet the C’s hung right with Toronto until the end.

“We missed a lot of shots, didn’t play well, still gave ourselves a chance,” said Jayson Tatum, who tallied a game-high 24 points, along with a team-high 10 rebounds.

Now, the Celtics have a chance to hit the reset button and view this as an entirely new, best-of-three series, which is exactly what Jaylen Brown is doing already.

“For us,” said the veteran wing, “shake it off. 2-2. Playoffs. We’re in the moment. Gotta make the best of our situation. Come out and be ready to play, be ready to fight.”

And just like that, we’re back to square one Monday night.


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