Celtics get hot from deep early, dominate Raptors in Game 1

Boston Celtics' Marcus Smart was locked in from deep in Sunday's win over Toronto, canning five of his nine 3-point attempts en route to 21 points.  (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

Do I believe the Celtics’ drubbing of the higher-seeded Toronto Raptors in Sunday’s second round opener was indicative of how the rest of the series will go? Not by a long shot.

Do I believe it was a wildly impressive start against a very good basketball team? Absolutely.

Boston got going early and often, particularly from deep. The Green canned six of their nine 3-point attempts in the first quarter alone, building a 16-point lead after 12 minutes. From that time on, you could’ve walked away from your television set and came back at any point in the action — and the Celtics’ lead would’ve been virtually the same.

The closest Toronto got the rest of the way was within nine points early in the second quarter and 13 after the break. Each time it looked like they might make a push, Boston responded with a big shot or quick run.

The result was a 112-94 win for the Celtics and a 1-0 series lead. Basketball is a game of runs, and the Raptors just never quite made theirs on Sunday.

So what can we attribute to this outstanding performance? We can start by focusing on all the great things Boston did.

Efficiency from distance: Though they cooled off from their impeccable start from beyond the arc, the Celtics still shot an efficient 17-for-39 from three for the game. Not too shabby for a team that had just two players among the top 20 in made triples this season (Jayson Tatum, 10th with 189 and Kemba Walker, 14th with 180).

All five starters in double figures: Tatum (21), Marcus Smart (21), Walker (18), Jaylen Brown (17) and Daniel Theis (13) all had impressive showings in the scoring column Sunday. Any time that happens, it’s a pretty good recipe for victory.

Smart breaks slump: OK, so maybe it was less of a slump and more of an inconsistency issue in terms of shooting for Smart. But the spry guard made five of his nine 3-ball attempts and was 6-for-10 overall in Game 1. The best thing Smart does is play defense, so any time he can knock down shots with regularity it’s an added boost. Without Gordon Hayward, Boston will need Smart to chip in offensively more often.

Cleaning the glass: Boston out-rebounded Toronto by 10 (50-40) and consistently held its Eastern Conference foe to one shot per possession.

Solid bench contributions: Boston’s bench was less than stellar in its first round sweep of Philadelphia; but Sunday they came to play. Well, at least two of them. Brad Wanamaker (7 points, 6 rebounds) and Robert Williams (10 points, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks) both played big minutes off the pine and allowed head coach Brad Stevens to confidently turn to them to help protect the lead.

The Celtics played terrific throughout, there’s no doubt about that. But was it their defense that simply locked up Toronto’s best players, or a lack of shot making from the latter?

I’d like to say it was a combination of both, as the Raptors clearly struggled to knock down what were a lot of the time good looks.

Toronto shot an abysmal 31-for-84 (37 percent) from the field and 10-for-40 (25 percent) from three. The 30 missed triples was a playoff-worst for the franchise, and it was their best players that struggled the most. All-star forward Pascal Siakam (13 points) missed all three of his triple attempts, as did starting center Marc Gasol. All-star guard Kyle Lowry was just 1-for-5 from distance, and fellow backcourt mate Fred VanVleet went 2-for-11 from that range.

Did the Celtics do a solid job guarding the Raptors’ top scoring threats? Yes. But I don’t foresee that many missed attempts from such a skilled shooting group moving forward.

Boston’s Game 1 win was everything fans could’ve hoped for. But considering the talent and depth gracing the Raptors roster, I fully expect more competitive outings moving forward.

Nick Giannino can be reached at NGiannino@gloucestertimes.com. Follow him on Twitter @NickGiannino_SN.

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