The Raptors beat the Celtics 113-101 in a matchup between what clearly looked like the 2 best teams in the Eastern Conference. The Celtics held the lead for most of the first half, but after a slow first quarter the Raptors offense couldn't be stopped. The Raptors scored 95 of their points in the final 3 quarters, with their lowest scoring total from those quarters being 31 points. They took the lead 74-72 with 4:18 left in the 3rd quarter and Toronto held the lead for all but 11 seconds from that point on. The Celtics defense was not up to par for them, giving multiple free runs to the hoop and even leaving players completely uncovered at times during the game leading to easy layups. They even left Kawhi Leonard uncovered at one point, but were spared when Kawhi lost the ball out of bounds. These ugly blown assignments aren't typical of a Brad Stevens coached team and are a clear sign of just how much work the Celtics have left to do to improve this year.
DeMar DeRozan IS NOT better than Kawhi Leonard. When they were both last playing at full health in the 2016-17 season, it was clear and obvious that Kawhi Leonard was the better player. Leonard is a not only a better shooter, but is also probably the best perimeter defender the NBA has seen in the 21st century whereas some may even go as far as to call DeRozan a liability on that end of the floor. This article is not an article saying DeMar DeRozan is better than Kawhi Leonard, that would be foolish. But against one team, perhaps the most important team the Raptors will play, DeMar DeRozan has played better than Kawhi.
This game started incredibly sloppy. I feel like I didn't see a bucket drop for the first five minutes. That said, the Celtics got it together, and proved they are head and shoulders above the Sixers when it comes to top teams in this league.
Many questions are facing the Celtics this season as they begin what's viewed to be a season that ends in the NBA Finals, one way or another. One of the most polarizing topics that many think coach Brad Stevens will face this season is sorting out his rotation. With Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving returning to a team that was led to the Eastern Conference Finals by the likes of young stars Terry Rozier, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, the worry has been that there won't be enough minutes to keep everyone happy. After all, there's only 240 minutes to go around each game...
Will the Boston Celtics be able to financially maintain this now budding dynasty that they've worked so hard to cultivate over the course of the past several years - really since the Big Three trade? In order to afford their collection of potential max contract players, Boston will have to bank on either a willingness to take pay cuts, or a new collective bargaining agreement. NBA superstars are expensive, and in the next few years the Boston Celtics are going to have a lot of them to pay.
We are onto Part 3 of the Celtics predictions. First off, thank you for all of the love on the previous two installments. If you have not checked either Part 1 or Part 2 out yet, please do.
Welcome back for Part 2. If you have not read Part 1: The Regular Season, go ahead and do so now. This second installment will feature my predictions on just how far the Celtics will go in the NBA Playoffs this season.