Toronto Raptors: VanVleet, Siakam struggle mightily in Game 1 loss vs. Boston

Toronto Raptors struggle in Game 1 loss to Boston Celtics

Over the course of the 2019-20 NBA season (including the pre-hiatus regular season), the Toronto Raptors have struggled to solve the Boston Celtics. Including Boston’s convincing Game 1 victory Sunday afternoon, the two teams have faced off five times. The Celtics are 4-1 in those games.

Specifically, in the last two games (both taking place in the bubble), the Celtics have outscored the Raptors 234-194. As the Raptors look to bounce back in Game 2, there could be a reason for true concern. Perhaps even one for panic.

In Game 1, the Celtics looked like the better team from wire-to-wire while building a 16-point lead by the end of the first quarter. Jayson Tatum, Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart once again led the way for the Celtics, combing to score 77 of the team’s total points.

It was Boston’s defense – specifically in the first half – that would end up setting the tone for the longevity of Game 1. During the first half, Boston held Toronto to just 42 points on 29 percent shooting from the field. Boston’s perimeter defense was the early game-changer, with Toronto only shooting 6-33 (18%) on shots outside the paint.

Boston, on the other hand, had no issue with Toronto’s defense. The Celtics shot 47 percent from the field on the night and 10-15 on corner 3’s. With that type of performance, it’s easy to see why Boston ran away with Game 1 to take a 1-0 series lead.

From the NBA’s restart through the first round of the playoffs, the Raptors had the league’s third-ranked defense. On a night when their offense was off, to say the least, Toronto needed to rely on its defense. That simply wasn’t the case in Game 1.

In fact, it hasn’t been the case much at all vs. Boston this season. If the Raptors are going to have any shot at winning this series and advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals, Toronto is going to have to find a way to solve their issues vs. the Celtics.

On the surface, both Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam will have to be better for the Raptors on the offensive end. The two finished with a combined 24 points on 8-32 (25%) shooting from the field. To put that total in context, during the first round of the playoffs, VanVleet and Siakam were the team’s two leading-scorers, totaling 42 points per contest in their four-game sweep of the Brooklyn Nets.

If VanVleet and Siakam are not going to lead the Raptors on the offensive end like they’ve done pretty much all season long, Toronto might as well pack their bags already.

Defensively, Toronto also needs to do a better job in defending the 3-point line. In Game 1, Toronto let Boston have any corner 3 they wanted, and the Celtics made them pay by canning 10 of them. You may not expect Boston to hit nearly every corner 3 attempted, but giving up 30 points from just the corners is never a great sign.

Perhaps Game 1 was an anomaly. Maybe Toronto’s offense resurrects in Game 2 and this series is back to one game apiece. However, at this point, that’s not a foregone conclusion. The Toronto Raptors have lost four of the five matchups against the Boston Celtics this season.

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Game 1 might’ve been the beginning of the end for Toronto’s magical run this season. It might be time to panic for the Raptors.

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