Celtics Notes: When Marcus Smart’s Offense Matches Defense, Sky Is The Limit

Boston owns a 1-0 advantage after Game 1 of the second-round series

by Alexandra Francisco

August 30, 2020

If the Boston Celtics want to defeat Toronto Raptors this series, in the absence of Gordon Hayward, scoring would have to be more balanced over the offense than it was against the Philadelphia 76ers.

And they got just that in Game 1.

Several Celtics stepped up Sunday in Boston’s 112-94 win over Raptors to take a 1-0 advantage in the Eastern Conference semifinals, including Marcus Smart, who had a couple of shaky games in the first round.

“Marcus was his normal self,” head coach Brad Stevens said of the guard during his postgame press conference, via House of Highlights. “I thought Marcus was unbelievable on both ends.”

Smart tied with Tatum for a team-high 21 points and had six rebounds in Game 1. And five of those baskets, including his first of the night, came from beyond the arc.

Now, Toronto typically gives up a ton of 3-pointers, but that’s by design to bait guys into taking bad shots. And it usually works out well as the Raptors hold opponents to one of the lowest 3-point shooting percentages in the league.

This time, it was to their detriment, as the Celtics shot 43.6 percent from three. The Raptors, meanwhile, shot an uncharacteristic 36.9 percent from the field and just 25 percent from deep.

Some of that, of course, had to do with Boston’s defense. They were great against Toronto in transition, on the perimeter and in the post as well.

But it should also be noted that the Raptors’ cold night shooting had much to do with the foul trouble some of its stars got into early, forcing coach Nick Nurse to sideline some of his top guys.

That certainly didn’t help them shake off the rust from not playing a game in a week.

But don’t get excited about this blowout. We likely won’t see another game where not a single player on the entire Raptors squad reaches the 20-point threshold, or where Pascal Siakam, Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol get into foul trouble as early as they did Sunday.

But if Smart and the Celtics can maintain that same energy on defense through the series, this will be really fun.

— Tatum had a slow start with just two points in the first quarter. Toronto guarded him well by picking him up at half court and double-teaming him on the perimeter and in the post.

But he emerged in the second quarter and through the rest of the game to finish tied with Smart for a game-high 21 points with nine boards.

On defense, Tatum primarily guarded Lowry and held him to 17 points, just 1-for-5 from deep. And while he perhaps took a while to heat up or get good looks on offense, he’s completely confident of his teammates to step up.

?I believe in each and every one of those guys in that locker room,” Tatum said after the game, via the Celtics.

— Walker claimed his first postseason double-double Sunday while playing in the second round of the NBA Playoffs for the first time in his career.

He dropped 18 points with 10 assists, three rebounds and had a plus-minus rating of 25. As noted by The Athletic’s Jay King, the measure for on-court point differential for a player in a single game is quite silly, but Walker’s contributions were enormous.

Walker played excellent defense compared to what would be expected from a high-scoring guard of his size, but the effort was always there Sunday. It was just overshadowed by production on offense, including this buzzer-beater to close out the first half.

Tatum didn’t want to discuss the biggest difference between last season’s Celtics and this year’s roster, but we all know the answer is Walker.

“Man… we just won the game. You had to bring last year up?” Tatum said with a laugh, via Yahoo! Sports’ Keith Smith.

— Daniel Theis flew a little bit under the radar in the series against the 76ers. But here in the second round, Theis showed how crucial he’ll be during this series against the Raptors from the get-go, despite a shaky second quarter on offense.

Theis dropped 13 points and a career-high 15 rebounds to secure the first playoff double-double of his career and was great in screens and on defense against some of Toronto’s bigs in the paint.

Like Serge Ibaka, for example, who Theis got into it with a little bit after Ibaka gave him a little hip check late in the game that resulted in a flagrant foul.

“It’s the second round of the playoffs,” Theis said in his postgame media availability, via NBC Sports Boston. “It’s nothing dirty. It’s just a fight out there. The whole game we played physical and there’s no bad air in between or anything.

“Every team wants to compete, every team wants to win. That’s what you’d expect from a series with Toronto and Boston.”

— Based on Game 1, it looks like Robert Williams is going to get most of the minutes as the backup center. He proved to be a much better matchup against the Raptors than Enes Kanter, who was the right man for the job in the 76ers series.

Williams shot 5-for-5 from the field in 19 minutes, earning him mighty praise from ESPN analyst Doris Burke in the process.

“Rob is one of those guys where he comes in and changes the game,” Smart said of Williams, via NBC Sports Boston.

“His presence and athleticism is ridiculous.”

— This game was a comfortable win, but it wasn’t all peaches and rainbows.

The Celtics got cooked by the Raptors going against the zone defense for stretches in the second quarter and will need to take better care of the ball against a team that prides itself on forcing turnovers. Boston turned it over 22 times, too. Not great.

When the Raptors come into Game 2 with adjustments, and likely start hitting shots, the Celtics won’t be able to make up for those mistakes.

“We need to go back and look at how we can play better, but you know, guys had a good mindset,” Stevens said after the win. “And they kept guarding no matter what happened.”

Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images
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