Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big storyline. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
After admitting a lack of effort after the Raptors tied the series in Game 4, the Celtics made themselves felt early in the defensive end, limiting Toronto to an 11-point first quarter and a 35-point first half — both lows for any team in the playoff field. Toronto’s 27-point halftime deficit was the second-worst in franchise playoff history.
Stevens basically snorted at the notion three days ago that offense was his problem in Game 4.
“It starts on defense,” he said, and sure enough, with Marcus Smart and an electrified Jaylen Brown turning in some great early defensive possessions, the Celtics carved out an early edge, led by a 62-35 score at halftime and protected their billowing lead the rest of the way.
On Friday, I observed that the Celtics had played too much of Thursday’s game with a ‘we’ve got this’ attitude, and boldly predicted that Saturday’s game would be marked by a decidedly different tone, resulting in an outcome that would leave no doubt as to the better team.
Turns out I was one game off. The Celtics came out of the gate in game four under the apparent misapprehension that Toronto had won game three by accident. The exception was Jaylen Brown, who also had a bad day on Saturday, but probably for different reasons (see below for more on that).
However, last night’s game was exactly the effort I–and I think many fans–were expecting from Saturday’s performance. The Celtics limited the Raptors to just 11 points in the first quarter and only 35 points in the first half. Both totals were record lows for the 2020 playoffs, and that, to me, is far more telling than what they accomplished on the offensive end of the court.
The Raptors, having tied the series 2-2, apparently came into game 5 with the complacency that I expected them to have in game 4.
In short, they were not prepared for the Celtics’ defense, and once Boston got Toronto on their heels, they (3rd quarter excepted) continued to press their advantage.
Make no mistake, the Celtics can finish this series in six. They are the better team in this series, having outscored the Raptors by 36 points over five games.
But will they?
More game recaps
MassLive: Boston Celtics Brad Wanamaker ‘impacted us quite a bit’ in key Game 5 stretch vs. Toronto Raptors | Here’s everything the Boston Celtics said after their Game 5 win over the Toronto Raptors | Boston Celtics stifle Toronto Raptors, cruise to Game 5 blowout win: 3 things we learned
Providence Journal: WIRE-TO-WIRE WIN: Celtics dominate Raptors, 111-89, take 3-2 series lead
Page 2: Where Jaylen Brown says that nothing changed
(but we don’t quite believe him)
“What did you change between Games 4 and 5?”
Three times, Brown’s answer — with small variations in the wording — was the same.
“I didn’t change anything from the last couple games to now,” Brown said in response to the second query. “Didn’t change anything really. Went to sleep, watched film, talked to Tony – my position guy. Talked to Brad, nothing really different.”
“Good games, bad games, ups and downs, it’s life,” Brown said. “It’s how it happens. Last game, I feel like I got some good looks that didn’t go down. This game I got some good looks, they went down. Same mindset was to keep shooting if I’m open, don’t hesitate. Believe in myself, I think my coaching staff and organization believes in me, so we’ve just got to keep going. I didn’t change anything really.”
On Friday, I predicted that the anger Brown felt at missing the rotation onto Anunuoby would fuel a solid performance on Saturday, and, instead, Jaylen’s poor play was a major factor in Boston’s loss.
Jaylen swears that nothing changed from Saturday to Monday, but it’s hard to believe that statement. Jaylen gave all the signs of a guy who was pressing on Saturday, and this should be an instructive moment for a guy who’s both very young and one of the team’s veteran players.
It seems that Jaylen is still learning how to channel and direct disappointment with his own play. Yes, Jaylen should have been upset that the Raptors won game three because he missed a rotation.
But he needs to put that disappointment in context. He needs to learn to credit himself for all the things that he did right in game three so that he doesn’t come out in game four trying to fix stuff that wasn’t broken. Pressing, trying too hard, regardless of what Jaylen says, was almost certainly part of the issue on Saturday. I’d be more willing to credit his ‘hey, everybody has an off-game’ line if game four had not followed a media session where he specifically called his own performance into question.
However–and this is something that we haven’t been able to say of a Celtics team for almost four decades–we are looking at the nucleus of a young championship contender. These guys can–and will-get so much better.
Finally: Boston’s rookies enter their second year… as rookies
“We laugh with some of our rookies that they’ve now been rookies for over a year from a time a lot of them came to Boston and started working out,″ said coach Brad Stevens recently. “That (stinks) for them, but eventually they’ll become second-year players, I guess.″
For now, the rookies are finishing out their initial season at the Disney World bubble where the Celtics and Toronto Raptors played Game 5 of their second-round series on Monday night.
The Celtics have had five rookies as part of the 15-man roster throughout the season while two others, Waters and Fall, are on two-way contracts and split time between the NBA G-League and the NBA.
A reminder–in case you needed it–that it’s been a long strange trip.
The rest of the links
MassLive: Boston Celtics Jayson Tatum remembers Lou Brock with sneaker message: ‘one of the best ever’ | Gordon Hayward is back in the bubble, but Boston Celtics aren’t sure when he will be out of quarantine