One Thing That Can Lead the Celtics Past the Raptors in the NBA Playoffs


Since the NBA restarted in late July, offenses have ruled the courts.  Team totals have consistently been in the 120's, while individuals have also put up some eye-popping stat lines.  However, the upcoming Eastern Conference Semifinal matchup between the Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors may have a different feel.  These are two of the best defensive teams in the league. 

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Toronto was tops in the league in points allowed per game this season, with Boston right behind them.  The same can be said about opponent's three-point shooting percentage.  In addition, both teams are in the top 5 in opponent's overall shooting percentage. 

By now, we all know what Boston did to Toronto just a couple of weeks ago in the seeding round.  I wouldn't expect to see that again.  All signs point to a closely contested, grind it out type of playoff series.  Both teams will certainly face more resistance than they did from their first round opponent.  

When playing against a defense as stingy as Toronto's, the importance of each individual offensive possession is magnified.  You can't afford to have too many empty possessions.  Missing shots is one thing, but turning the ball over at a high rate against a good defensive team is a recipe for disaster.  It's about maximizing each possession, and stealing an extra possession here or there.  Right there is where I think the Celtics can find a path to victory in this series. 

Statistically speaking, these two teams are virtually equals.  I happen to think that Boston has a little more individual talent and playmaking ability, which will ultimately lead them through to the next round.  But looking just at the numbers, Boston and Toronto are on the same level.  However, there is one area where the Celtics have a distinct advantage; on the offensive glass.

Boston finished the regular season as the sixth best offensive rebounding team in the league, while Toronto was the sixth worst.  Both Enes Kanter and Daniel Theis averaged more than two offensive rebounds per game this year. That doesn't seem like a lot, but if they each grab two offensive rebounds a night, in theory that leads to four additional shots for the Celtics.  More opportunities to score are important no matter who the opponent, but they are even more so important against a team as defensively sound as Toronto.

The Celtics beat Toronto three out of four times this season.  In their three victories, they posted rebounding margins of +10, +16 and +9.  They collected a whopping 43 offensive rebounds combined in those three wins, compared to Toronto's 21.  In the lone loss, Boston was outrebounded 60 to 41, including 15 to 7 on the offensive glass.

In the teams' first meeting of the season, Boston pulled in a ridiculous 21 offensive rebounds, which contributed to them attempting 31 more shots than Toronto.  Think about that for a second.  31 more shots.  Boston only shot 38% compared to Toronto's 46% that night, but because they had all of those extra chances to score, they came away with the victory. 

In the game they lost, Boston shot 39%, compared to Toronto's 52%, but got crushed on the glass, took six fewer shots and lost by 16. 

I wouldn't classify Boston as a great rebounding team by any means, but I think they have an advantage over Toronto in that facet this series.  The Celtics had 10+ offensive rebounds in three of four games against Philly last round.  If they can bring that same energy to Toronto, I like their chances.

Now, I don't think it's absolutely necessary for Boston to dominate the glass to win this series.  It will just greatly improve their chances.  I think overall, Boston matches up well with Toronto.  The Raptors play very good team defense, but I don't think they have any elite individual defenders.  There's nobody on that roster who can guard Jayson Tatum.

Give me Boston in six. 

Follow Derek on Twitter @mcvay34

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Boston Sports Syndicate: One Thing That Can Lead the Celtics Past the Raptors in the NBA Playoffs
One Thing That Can Lead the Celtics Past the Raptors in the NBA Playoffs
Boston Sports Syndicate
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