Last night, we saw the Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors play in a series altering game 5 and game 3 between the Clippers and the Nuggets. Boston had lost two straight prior to this game and the series was tied 2-2, and the Clippers and Nuggets were tied at one game a piece prior to this game. With that being said, it is time to break down each contest.
Celtics vs Raptors
Jaylen Brown came alive after his horrendous performance last game and scorched the Raptors with his scoring at all three levels as Boston cruised by Toronto in blowout fashion. Brown finished the game with 27 points on 10/18 shooting and hit 3 out of his 7 three point attempts. He did this on much better production and far better efficiency in this pivotal game 5 for the Boston Celtics.
Brown’s best quarter came in the second where he scored 9 points on 4/6 shooting from the field which led the Celtics to outscore Toronto in the second 37-24 and take a huge halftime lead of 62-35, which they never gave up or looked back.
One can definitely give credit to the aggressive mentality of the entire Celtics roster. After losing the previous two matchups where they more so beat themselves than Toronto blowing them out of the water, Boston made the necessary adjustments they needed to make in order to gain control of this series.
Brad Stevens gave us an indication of the fact that he has superstar potential as a coach written all over him, making the necessary rotational and defensive adjustments in order to secure the win but most importantly, not give Toronto a chance.
Additionally, Kemba Walker had something similar to his average statline on the year, scoring 21 points on 8/15 shooting. Last game, he inexcusably took very few shots, so Celtics fans can be relieved that his volume was back to normal and not depleted.
Jayson Tatum struggled yet again with efficiency, shooting only 5/15 from the field but luckily, the supporting cast played so well that many others will gloss over the fact. But Tatum seriously needs to step up his performance, as Boston desperately needs his A+ game moving forward.
For Toronto, there was no surprise for how poorly they performed on the offensive end. Boston made it a plan to attack OG Anunoby on the perimeter and he was ice cold. Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam didn’t take nearly the same volume of shots they are accustomed to taking and Lowry wasn’t too efficient either.
Fred VanVleet was the only bright spot, but for Toronto, one can’t have much to say about this performance. They were disappointing and outplayed by the better team who came out on the floor with more intensity. It is just that simple. They need to make the same adjustments Boston made coming into game 5, going into their game 6 where they will be facing elimination.
Nuggets vs Clippers
The Clippers managed to pull away with the victory in game 2 down the stretch due to their clutch defensive play, especially that of former 2x defensive player of the year Kawhi Leonard, and their experience matched up with the Nuggets’s inexperience.
Denver looked extremely impressive throughout the first three quarters, outscoring LA in each but the first quarter where they were only outscored by one point. But the fourth quarter in the playoffs is a completely different ballgame and that’s where the stars are separated from the superstars.
Nikola Jokic and Michael Porter Jr were sensational for the majority of this contest, but Jamal Murray looked like a completely different player from the one we had grown accustomed to watching in the previous series.
Jokic, the best center in basketball, was getting whatever he wanted inside scoring 32 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and shooting an efficient 13/24 from the field. Porter Jr was also tremendous off the bench hitting multiple timely shots on solid efficiency, scoring 18 points and grabbing 10 rebounds while actually being active on the defensive end, which he is considered a liability at.
Jamal Murray, however, was not too great. Murray only scored 14 points on an extremely inefficient 5/17 shooting from the field and although one could point out his 9 assists, they are a lot less impressive when you notice that he was only really passive since his shot wasn’t falling. His late game decision making was also extremely suspect, such as trying to posterize Kawhi Leonard in crunch time.
For Los Angeles, Paul George was sensational. Earlier in the playoffs and especially in the Mavericks series, he was struggling, shooting at inefficient clips, having a low scoring total, and not making much of a defensive impact either. All of that has changed in this series, especially in last night’s matchup.
George had 32 points on 12/18 shooting from the field, made 5/7 three point shots, and was extremely clutch on the defensive end, locking up Jamal Murray down the stretch and in the final possessions and creating two turnovers off of steals.
Kawhi Leonard had an average game for his standards, which for most players is a great game. He had 23 points on 9/19 shooting, grabbed 14 rebounds, dished out six assists, and had two blocks including one incredible clutch block that came in the fourth against Jamal Murray, where Leonard barely blocked it with the tip of his middle finger. The quartet of Leonard, George, Williams, and Harrell combined outscored the entire Nuggets team in the fourth quarter.
In the end, the Nuggets kept this game very close, but Jamal Murray’s poor play combined with their inexperience in high leverage playoff moments combined with the fact that the Clippers had plenty of experience led to their downfall. They look to shoot the ball much more efficiently in game 4.