Last night, we witnessed a series changing game 4 between the Celtics and Raptors (series tied 2-2) and the second game between the Clippers and Nuggets. With that being said, let’s get right into the game breakdowns:
Celtics vs Raptors
After taking a 2-0 series lead, the Boston Celtics have lost two straight and have let the Toronto Raptors right back into this series. There are a variety of reasons for why this is the case.
First, the inconsistent play between Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. In game 3, Jayson Tatum only scored 15 points on 5/18 shooting. Last night in game 4, Jaylen Brown played even worse than Jayson did in game 1, scoring only 14 points on 4/18 shooting and missing 9 out of his 11 three-point attempts.
Secondly, Kemba Walker took only 8 shot attempts. Let’s restate that. He took EIGHT SHOT ATTEMPTS. That is just flat out unacceptable. Unacceptable on his part for not calling enough on-ball situations, and on Brad Stevens for not creating enough play designs where he gets his touches. On the season he averages around 16 shot attempts a game, meaning that he had his opportunity and potential production cut by at least half on the scoring end.
Last but most importantly, the loss of Gordon Hayward to injury is really catching up with the Celtics. In my article recapping games 1 and 2, I said the Celtics would win this series comfortably if Marcus Smart and Robert Williams made up for Hayward’s scoring load.
In the first two games they executed perfectly and had a combined total of 59 points during that stretch. In the last two games, not so much, as they’ve only scored 28 since. Boston needs Gordon Hayward or someone else to step up, and they need either solution desperately.
Clippers vs Nuggets
The Nuggets started off hot in the first quarter and didn’t take their foot off the gas pedal as they cruised past the Clippers pretty easily in game 2. It started in the first quarter as mentioned in the prior sentence, where Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray combined outscored the entire Clippers team and scored more efficiently.
For the rest of the game, the entire Nuggets team as a whole was sensational, shooting a team total of 71% from the field. Nikola Jokic led the way with 26 points and 18 rebounds. Jamal Murray was also terrific with 27 points on 10/21 shooting from the field.
For the Clippers, Kawhi Leonard had a rare, terrible playoff game. In the game, Leonard was heavily neutralized by Jerami Grant, scoring only 13 points on 4/17 shooting from the field. The supporting cast of Paul George, Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell, and Ivica Zubac were all significantly better than Leonard and helped keep the game within reach entering the fourth quarter, but once the fourth quarter hit, Kawhi didn’t do much better. In fact, he did even worse.
In nine minutes of action in the fourth quarter, Leonard had a grand total of zero points on 0/3 shooting from the field. From someone who has been praised to be one of the better clutch time players in NBA history, Leonard certainly did not play to his name yesterday.
I expect him to bounce back, but it once again shows that regardless of how much depth the Clippers have, Kawhi Leonard is the backbone of this team and their success and how far they go is all based on how well he produces.