We have a series on our hands.
After trailing 2-0, with one shot separating them from going down 3-0, the Toronto Raptors have charged back in the Eastern Conference Semifinals to even things up at 2-2.
In what is now a best two-out-of-three series to reach the Conference Finals, the Boston Celtics will look to regain control while the Raptors will try and keep their momentum pushing forward in a massive Game 5.
Three Things to Watch
Needing more from Jaylen Brown
What we saw from Jaylen Brown in Game 4 was uncharacteristic.
Brown has been a much-improved shooter this season, converting a career-high 48.1% of his shots from the field while going 38.2% from 3 - a strong increase from 34.4% last season. He shot a career-high 41.9% on catch-and-shoot 3s this season, a higher rate than considered great perimeter shooters like Paul George (41.4%) and Buddy Hield (41.3%).
So when Brown came out and missed his first nine 3-pointers of Game 4, with most of them being catch-and-shoot attempts and none of them looking particularly pretty, it was clear it was going to be a long night for the Celtics' wing.
Even when he couldn't buy a bucket, he kept chucking. Brown was determined to shoot himself out of his funk, knowing that if he could get going, Boston could have a chance at winning the game even though they didn't play all that well.
It got to the point where the Raptors defence was daring him to shoot.
He'd finish the game with 14 points shooting 4-for-18 (22.2%) from the field and 2-for-11 (18.2%) from 3-point land. By the time he finally got a pair of 3s to fall in the fourth quarter, it was too late for Boston's comeback hopes.
He wasn't the only Celtics player to struggle from 3 - which we'll get to in a moment - but without Gordon Hayward available, Boston needs every bit of offensive production they can get from their three premier scorers.
"I just missed some open shots," Brown said after the game. "I'm a good shooter, I've just got to make them."
When Brown scores 25 or more points, the Celtics are a perfect 14-0 this season. If they're going to regain control of this series, it will start with Brown shaking off this funk in Game 5.
The 3-point shot has brought this series to where it is at this point.
Without Marcus Smart's 3-point shooting barrage knocking down five 3s in the fourth quarter of Game 2, the Cetlics never go up 2-0. Without OG Anunoby's buzzer-beating 3-point shot in Game 3, the Raptors might just be on their way back to Toronto by now.
This isn't hyperbole - 3-point shooting has decided the series so far.
|17 (43.6%)||1||10 (25.0%)|
|15 (39.5%)||2||11 (27.5%)|
|9 (31.0%)||3||13 (32.5%)|
|7 (20.0%)||4||17 (38.6%)|
Two things you'll notice from the chart above: the team that has knocked down more 3s has won each game and as the Celtics made 3s have steadily decreased, the Raptors have steadily increased their number of made 3s each game. Hence the series starting out at 2-0 before being evened up at 2-2.
Boston's 20% shooting from 3 in Game 4 was their very worst perimeter shooting night of the entire season. Remember from above how Brown shot 2-for-11 from 3 in Game 4? Well, percentage-wise (18.2%), he was the Celtics' most efficient 3-point shooting starter in that contest. That just goes to show how poorly the team shot in Game 4.
Over Toronto's last two wins, they've had four players - Norman Powell (66.7%), Serge Ibaka (57.1%), Anunoby (55.6%) and Fred VanVleet (41.7%) - shoot over 40% from long range. And then there's Kyle Lowry, whose 33.3% isn't as glamorous, but he's coming off of a game with four made 3s to add to Toronto's totals.
If this trend continues, you're as well off watching the made 3-point totals as you are the final score in Game 5.
Playing time has been a hot button topic in the NBA Playoffs to this point.
From superstars not playing enough to starters playing too much, each head coach has taken a different approach in how many minutes they play their key players and how deep into their bench they go.
In this series, both head coaches Nick Nurse and Brad Stevens have had no issue playing their starters big minutes. Take a look at the minutes per game break down by each team's four key players in this series.
All four of those Raptors players rank in the top-six for minutes played so far in the Conference Semifinals, while all four of those Celtics players fall within the top-15. There is no player still playing in the playoffs that has averaged more minutes played than Tatum's 38.3 per game, with VanVleet not too far behind him at 37.5 per game.
It's been a gruelling, grind-it-out series so far but at what point does fatigue start to set in for these two teams?
It's clear at this point that both Boston and Toronto's key players are willing to do whatever it takes to advance in the playoffs, but which group will wear down first?
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