The Celtics-Raptors matchup in the Eastern Conference Semifinals has the potential to be one of the best postseason battles in the NBA this year with the two teams facing each other for the first time in the playoffs. The Celtics won three of four regular season games against Toronto but both teams were missing several key players from the first three of those contests, limiting their usefulness in scouting the playoff matchup. After reviewing film, we begin our scouting report of the series with a long look at the Raptors offense and how the Celtics' defense will adjust to their strengths and weaknesses.
The Basics for Raptors
Pace: 102.9 (12th in NBA)
No. 13 offense: 110.7 points per 100 possessions
No. 2 defense: 104.7 points per 100 possessions
+6.1 net rating (4th)
Strengths on offense
3-point shooting: Outside of maybe the Miami Heat, there is no better high volume shooting team in the Eastern Conference than the Raptors from beyond the arc. Toronto ranked sixth in the NBA in 3-point attempts per game (37) and fifth in 3-point percentage (37.4), efficiency that fueled their middle of the pack offense all season.
The Celtics are one of the best teams in the NBA at defending the 3 (2nd in opponents 3-point shooting percentage) so this battle will be at the forefront of the series. The Celtics did fantastic in this area in round one against a Sixers team that was short on pure shooters. Al Horford, Tobias Harris and Joel Embiid had a miserable series from the perimeter as Boston held Philly to 26 percent shooting from 3-point range.
The Celtics won’t be able to count on those ugly shooting nights in Round 2 against a Raptors team with shooting pretty much everywhere on the floor. The main threats will come in the backcourt with Kyle Lowry (8 attempts per game) and Fred VanVleet (6.9 attempts per game) firing early and often. A look across the roster shows just how widespread the shooting is though as eight(!) different rotation players shot 35 percent or better from 3-point range in the regular season. Six of those players shot better than 38 percent from 3.
Raptors 3-point shooters in rotation
Powell: 39.9 percent
VanVleet: 39 percent
OG Anunoby: 39 percent
Terence Davis: 38.5 percent
Serge Ihaka: 38.5 percent
Marc Gasol: 38.5 percent
Pascal Siakam: 35.9 percent
Kyle Lowry: 35.2 percent
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is really the only rotation player that can’t shoot the 3 for Toronto so that’s going to limit the usefulness of immobile bigs like Enes Kanter in this series. There is no good place to hide him defensively against this group.
Keying on all of these guys is unrealistic for Boston so the main players that the Celtics will have to locate at all times is VanVleet (55.9 percent from 3 in Nets series), Lowry and Norm Powell (45 percent vs Nets from 3). These are the high volume guys that will be lethal for Boston if they can’t find them in transition. As far as guys the C’s might be willing to cheat off of a little bit, Gasol (28 percent in Orlando) is the main candidate.
Getting to free throw line: While Toronto’s main strength of their offense comes from the perimeter, they do maximize their forays into the paint. The team ranks 9th in FT/FGA rate and that’s