Title: What we’ve learned about a potential Raptors-Celtics playoff series
Date: February 27, 2019
Original Source: The Athletic
Synopsis: In my latest for The Athletic Toronto, I wrote about a decisive Raptors victory and what a four-game season series with the Celtics has taught them about a potential playoff matchup.
It had all the makings of a marquee game. On national television, two pseudo-rivals would square off with the stakes high, at least in narrative terms.
For the Boston Celtics, they’d dropped two in a row to continue a general floundering in the middle of the Eastern Conference. All year, the Celtics had stepped up against tough opponents, downplaying concerns about their overall performance in the process. They’d beaten Toronto twice and were 7-4 against the East’s best teams, with Tuesday representing exactly the kind of setting that’s invigorated them all year.
Opposite them, the Toronto Raptors needed to shake off not only two nail-biting losses to this same team earlier in the year but also cleanse the palate after a bad loss highlighted some troubling patterns in the winning streak that preceded it. There’s also been a faulty narrative that the Raptors, now exposed to 16 national TV games after years of relative regular season anonymity, under-performed on big stages (despite having a 7-7 record against those same East teams and a winning record on national TV). Where the Celtics have underwhelmed on record, the Raptors have underwhelmed around a strong record, rarely flashing their upside for extended stretches.
It seemed it would matter for both sides. Plus, the Raptors and Celtics almost always play each other tough, to the extent that everyone seems to agree the two sides need to battle in the postseason sooner rather than later.
The intensity the match-up theoretically necessitated was one-sided, as the Raptors steamrolled their way to a 118-95 victory to make it 11 consecutive meetings won by the home side. It may not be a statement game or other such cliche, but for a Raptors team that really needed a unifying victory, it was exactly that.