The Toronto Raptors will be facing one of the few teams that gave them a hard time during the season in the second round, the Boston Celtics.
After the Toronto Raptors first-ever sweep in history against the Brooklyn Nets, they’ll now be looking to carry that momentum into the next round against the only team they couldn’t beat in the bubble, the Boston Celtics. The Celtics always imposed a problem on the Raptors due to how well their personnel matched up against them.
The reason for that is that the Toronto Raptors are notorious for having a team where players can all defend, shoot, or create their own. All things the Boston Celtics do equally well which is a factor why the Celtics took the season series 3-1 in the first place — worth mentioning that Siakam and Gasol missed two games of those games simultaneously, where they won one and lost one.
Now let’s get into the specifics on why this can be a bad matchup for the Raptors.
Toronto Raptors: Pascal Siakam has always struggled against good defensive teams
Since Pascal Siakam’s astonishing MVP caliber start to the season, he has failed to ever get back into that groove. Even if the hot shooting was a byproduct of that, his decline has less to do with him and more to how teams have adopted against him on defense. Just an average shooter, Siakam makes most of his living around the rim, where he shoots it at 65 percent.
After his hot shooting declined and Siakam became a league-average shooter again, teams aren’t afraid to give Siakam some space around the perimeter to shoot, so they can be better positioned to defend the paint. His slow release time also gives players quick enough like Jaylen Brown — Siakam’s primary defender who has held him to 40 percent shooting — to close out well enough.
Siakam’s efficiency around the rim usually calls for outside help from the defenders when he drives to the net, usually meaning that there will be open shooters available. Siakam has never been a great playmaker, but he did get a career-high ten assists last game, driving and kicking out.
If Siakam can continue to absorb pressure in the paint, and punish defenders for leaving shooters open, it’ll certainly change how the series is played out. Especially if you get a shooter like VanVleet going, who has been struggling all year long versus the Celtics.