Raptors v Celtics - Game 2 Preview

by Chris O'Leary

Coming off of an 18-point Game 1 loss, the Raptors got a boost on Monday. Some of them will be reunited with family members. 

“I’m excited,” Fred VanVleet said on the team’s Zoom call with reporters. With the population of the NBA’s bubble dropping as teams are eliminated from the playoffs, the league has allowed the remaining teams to bring in family or people that have longtime, close personal relationships with players. 

“I miss my family. Family is huge for me and it's been a while. I think the last time I saw them it was Father's Day,” VanVleet said. “It’ll be good to see everybody and you know, right on time after getting our butts kicked (on Sunday). It'll kind of take my mind off of it for a little bit. Then I'll get prepared and get locked in for a game (on Tuesday).” 

With Game 2 set for a 5:30 p.m. tipoff on Sportsnet, the Raptors are looking for a way to put an uncharacteristic loss behind them and to get back on track. With some familiar faces in the stands at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex, here are some of the key things to watch for as the Raps try to even up their series with the Celtics. 

Be the bounceback Raptors 

The word came up more than a couple times during Nurse’s availability on Monday, that the Raptors have a history of being a good bounceback team. Leaving the shortcomings of Game 1 behind them will be crucial for the Raptors on Tuesday. VanVleet talked about a jilted flow to the start of the game on Sunday and wanting to correct that quickly. To start, they can try to be the team that dictates the pace of the game, after letting Boston conduct their own three-point-making symphony in Game 1. The Raptors had the game taken to them on Sunday. Taking it to the Celtics on Tuesday in the first quarter will be very important. 

Reignite Spicy P 

With 13-points, three rebounds and two assists and steals, Pascal Siakam was quiet in the start of the series. Those numbers are well below his all-star stats of 22.9 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. He may have been overaggressive in the low post, getting whistled twice for offensive fouls when he tried to power his way to the basket. A questionable foul on a three-point attempt -- his third foul of the first quarter -- likely also threw him out of rhythm when it sent him to the bench. These playoffs will be different for Siakam, drawing much more defensive attention now that he’s the top scoring option after the departure of Kawhi Leonard. It’s a learning process, but like every young star player in the league, his team will need him to learn on the fly to help them win. 

A Big experiment

Nurse said in the post-game on Sunday that he was searching for something when he threw Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka out on the court together at the start of the second quarter. It didn’t pay off in terms of a win, but it may have given the coach a bit of a wrinkle to throw at Brad Stevens on Tuesday. Together, Ibaka and Gasol helped get the Raptors within nine, as the Celtics’ offence hit its worst dry spell of the day. Unfortunately, an Ibaka pass out of the post was stolen and scored by Jason Tatum, snuffing out the run and getting the Celtics back on course. 

“Everything was going wrong and the game was getting away from us early. We went to it and it kind of brought us back with a chance,” Nurse said. 

Needed: Matt Devlin naming Canadian cities 

A 39.7 per cent three-point-shooting team in these playoffs, the Raptors were only 25 per cent (10 of 40) from three in the Game 1 loss. Not only does this deprive the viewing audience of Matt Devlin possibly shouting out their hometowns, it stifles the Raps in an era where the three is everything. Everyone struggled to find their touch in Game 1. The odds are low that it bites the Raptors this way again. Conversely, the Raptors were caught in a number of defensive breakdowns on Sunday that led to the Celtics making 17 of their 39 three-point attempts. Sunday night’s sleep and Monday morning’s film session was likely laced with visions of guys in green jerseys firing away from deep. The Raps will need to chase the Celtics off the line on Tuesday. 

Finding out what we get

Nurse was honest on Monday about the situation the Raptors are in. If they play poorly again in Game 2, they’ll get the same result. He said there was an angry feel to practice, but later wondered if maybe he was just projecting his mood out onto the floor. Besides, he said, anger the day before the game has no impact on game day. His players know what they have to do, but Nurse will remind them before they take the floor on Tuesday what’s at stake. 

“We’ve certainly been punched squarely in the nose,” Nurse said. “We get to stand up and either start playing better or not. That's kind of where we are.” 

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