Stephen A. Smith believes the Boston Celtics soon will end the Toronto Raptors’ defense of their NBA championship.
The ESPN analyst proclaimed the Celtics-Raptors second-round NBA playoff series to be “over” Wednesday on “First Take.” The Celtics beat the Raptors 102-99 on Tuesday, taking a 2-0 lead in the series. Smith believes Boston has shown enough for him to conclude there’s no way back for the Raptors.
“I think it’s all over,” Smith said. “Because of the different manner in which they’ve lost both games. Toronto forfeited a 31-13 lead in the first quarter of Game 1, gave up 39 points in that quarter, a quarter in which Jayson Tatum only scored two points. And they still ended up in a huge deficit they had to climb out of and they were not able to do it. They came out like gangbusters in Game 2, they made sure that they didn’t have to experience any kind of deficit and they still managed to lose that game.
“… I cannot say enough about Boston’s defense. They’re No. 1 in points allowed, they’re No. 1 in 3-point field-goal percentage shooting defensively, they really locked down, and Toronto has a real tough time dealing with them because they can get out on Toronto’s perimeter shooters, they can suffocate the lane, they have enough long and lanky athletes to really get out and defend, and on the offensive end they can go one-on-one, they have a slew of perimeter shooters, and it’s very difficult for Toronto to defend them.
“If it’s a back-and-forth series, I think it’s a pick ;em. But the fact that Boston is up 2-0, do I see Toronto winning four of the next five games to win the series? Absolutely not. I think it’s over.”
How much better the Celtics are than the Raptors is a debate topic. Smith believes Boston merely has outplayed Toronto, but Raptors coach Nick Nurse insists referees’ favorable treatment of Celtics star Jayson Tatum was pivotal to the outcome of the contest.
The Celtics and Raptors will face off at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday at Walt Disney World in Game 3. The truth about where they stand in relation to one another likely will come into clearer focus shortly thereafter.
Thumbnail photo via Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports Images