Round 2 - FIGHT! Second round of NBA playoffs kick off with early Raptors-Celtics
The next round of matchups is shaping up, two remaining Western conference teams face elimination today
The first round of the NBA playoffs went as expected out East, with three sweeps (the Milwaukee Bucks were the only higher seeded team to lose, and they only lost once). So we’ve got Conference semi-Finals kicking off today and tomorrow with all Eastern matchups set for the round.
In the West, the Los Angeles Lakers are the only team to advance so far, defeating the injured and over-matched Portland Trailblazers in five games.
Todays slate of games:
Round 2 in the East - Can the Celtics slow the Raptors transition game?
Getting us up early, the Toronto Raptors, and Boston Celtics start bright and early with a 10am airing out West of their first game. The Raptors didn’t miss a beat this season, despite losing All NBA talent Kawhi Leonard over the offseason, the defending champs are right back in the mix to come out of the East.
For me, this is a sneaky good series. Looking at the statistics, Toronto and Boston were the third and fourth-best teams by Net Rating. Each team had a top 5 defense in the regular season, and despite the Raptors relatively weak 13th ranked offense this series could be extremely tight.
One huge factor in this series (and beyond) is just how shockingly good the Raptors are in transition: they lead the league in fast-break points per game, as well as points off turnovers.
The Celtics protect the ball, the stingiest in the league with it in fact, with just 10 turnovers per game as a team. It’s exactly the sort of yin and yang dualism that can lead to historic back-and-forth battles. The Raptors need those fastbreak points (which accounted for nearly a quarter of their offensive output), but the Celtics strong defense and firm control of the basketball may have another thing to say about that.
Jayson Tatum versus Pascal Siakam is the matchup I’ll be watching with the most interest. Two of the league’s brightest rising stars meeting in the Playoffs for the first time while fighting against each other to advance in order to help define their legacy.
A 10am start is rough for those of us on the West Coast with stuff to do, but carve out some time to watch this one if you can. If basketball brunch isn’t a thing yet, let’s make it one.
Cleaning up the rest
The Los Angeles Clippers should easily put away the plucky Dallas Mavericks today. After a strong start, the Mavericks are now playing without their second best player, Kristaps Porziņģis, and rising star Luka Doncic is gamely struggling through a bad ankle sprain. The Clippers have looked wobbly all season, and a loss today to a Mavericks team that should be a relatively easy out would be an extremely undesirable outcome. But the Clippers have been playing all year like Seniors in High School, so I’m not going to be shocked if they do use up every inch of slack.
The Denver-Utah series is a toss up, in my opinion. The Nuggets will get dynamic guard Gary Harris back today (he was out with a minor hip injury), and will need him if they hope to force a game 7. The Nuggets have struggled to slow Donovan Mitchell, who is the leading scorer in the playoffs.
I don’t see either team being a huge concern for the Clippers (assuming they advance). Hopefully by this time tomorrow, we will have a completely clear picture of the Western Semi Finals.