Raptors v Celtics - Game 3 Preview
All season long, the Raptors’ resilience, depth and commitment to one another has been celebrated. On Thursday, facing a daunting deficit in their series against the Celtics, it faces a huge test.
It’s not technically a must-win (and we’ll get to that) but if the Raptors are going to get back into this series, it will almost certainly have to start with a Game 3 win. One thing that works in their favour in the bubble at Walt Disney World, Kyle Lowry said on Tuesday night, is that this situation is anything but normal.
“It’s not a normal situation in the playoffs where we lost two home games. We just lost two games. We have a chance to get one game. That's what we’ve got to do,” he said.
“The Celtics have been playing extremely well. We have to find a way to get ourselves going.”
Here are five storylines to follow for Thursday’s high stakes game.
In the simplest terms, the only thing worse than being down 2-0 is being down 3-0. It’s a deficit you can’t afford in a series against a team as good as the Celtics. The Raptors were in control going into the fourth quarter on Tuesday night and were able to see a lot of positive things in their film session on Wednesday. Nick Nurse acknowledged the seriousness of the 0-2 deficit in the post-game.
“I think we should know we shouldn't give up,” Nurse said. “We know the next game’s super critical. They're all critical but we know this one’s super critical.”
Maybe just a little hero ball
With the game in the balance in the final few minutes, the Raptors had chances to tie or take the lead but fell short. That doesn’t mean that the sole responsibility of leading the team with crunchtime buckets falls solely on Pascal Siakam’s shoulders. It does mean that someone will have to step in and pull the team through key stretches of what promises to be a tough game on Thursday night. Siakam is more than capable of doing it, but as we’ve seen throughout this year, so are Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet. They almost did it in Game 2. They’ll need to get over the hump if they want to win Game 3.
The three-point shooting hasn’t been there for the Raptors in this series yet, having made just 21-80 attempts. Lowry and VanVleet were a big part of those struggles in Game 2, with Lowry going 0-7 and VanVleet making three of his 12 attempts.
Expect both to keep firing away.
“I had a bunch of open looks and I just missed them, honestly. The shots are there. We just have to make them,” Lowry said.
“We know if we keep shooting those same shots we’re going to make them. We know we can shoot,” OG Anunoby said after the game. He was the team’s best marksman in Game 2, shooting 4-6 from deep.
Respect to OG
After missing the entirety of the 2019 playoff run, Anunoby has shown his worth in this 2020 run. He’s juggled defending Jayson Tatum with some valuable offensive contributions, scoring a career playoff high of 20 points and grabbing seven boards in Game 2. That follows a 12-point, seven-rebound and two-block effort in Game 1. He leads the team in blocks in the playoffs, with 1.3 per game.
Been there, done that
There’s little solace to take in an 0-2 deficit, but the bulk of this team knows what it takes to climb out of that daunting hole. Last year’s Raptors of course fell behind 0-2 to Milwaukee in the Conference Final before taking the series in six. Only seven teams have erased that 0-2 deficit to come back and win a series, but having done it in the last calendar year should help ease some of the tension that trailing in a series might normally bring.
“We’ve got to win the next game,” Siakam said on Tuesday night.
“That’s what matters and I think we played pretty decent. In the fourth quarter we didn’t make shots and they did. I think we have to take that, continue to have the same intensity the next game and win the next game and worry about that.”