It’s a best of three now. The Celtics were a half second away from taking a 3-0 stranglehold on the Raptors in Game 3. Kyle Lowry and OG Anunoby said ‘Not just yet’ stealing Game 3 and a completely different looking Raptors unit took the floor for Game 4. This time there was no buzzer-beater […]GANTER: Raptors have their swagger back now — Toronto Sun
It’s a best of three now.
The Celtics were a half second away from taking a 3-0 stranglehold on the Raptors in Game 3.
Kyle Lowry and OG Anunoby said ‘Not just yet’ stealing Game 3 and a completely different looking Raptors unit took the floor for Game 4.
This time there was no buzzer-beater needed as the Raptors pulled away for a 100-93 win to even up the series.
The Raptors were the clear aggressors in this game continually building leads but to the Celtics credit continually having to re-establish those leads after the Celts response.
But there was a different look in Toronto from the very outset.
No one between games was willing to say the Raptor swagger was definitively back given how little of Game 3 they actually controlled but it’s a much safer statement following Game 4.
The three-point game, a staple of their offence was back led by that stellar backfourt of Fred VanVleet and Kyle Lowry who were a combined 9-for-20 from distance. Serge Ibaka off the bench was a perfect 4-for-4 from behind the arc.
Were it not for Pascal Siakam’s 2-for-13 from distance, the team average would have been other worldly.
HOW ABOUT SERGE
Ibaka really isn’t getting the credit he deserves in this series.
With Gasol not quite himself until about Game 3, it was Ibaka who was so important just to give the Raptors a chance in Game 2.
With Gasol looking more like himself in Game 3 and again in Game 4 (despite the foul trouble) Ibaka has ccontinued to play big minutes as Nurse’s first or second man off the bench.
Nurse has been talking up Ibaka’s shooting since the re-start began and for good reason. Ibaka has been averaging just under 16 points a game in the playoffs for the Raptors in just over 24 minutes.
“Serge plays like that, we’re always a better team,” Lowry said afterwards. “When our bigs played the way they did tonight — Marc (Gasol) hit a big shot for us, Serge does like he did tonight, it gives us a big lift.”
NOT CELTICS’ NIGHT
The Celtics have been so good through three games it was almost unbelievable watching them shooting makeable three after makeable three Saturday night and missing.
The Celtics were just 7-for-35 from three in the game with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, their two big gunners going a combined 3-for-17.
Obviously credit the Raptors defence but sometimes the ball just isn’t falling and it seemed like that was the case for a good portion of the night for
the Celtics, but Brown in particular.
The Raptors on the other hand hit 17 threes in the game and while they weren’t real happy about their mid-range game – “We shot like crap from two” was how Fred VanVleet put it, they had a decent night from behind the arc. Lowry still thinks they can be better overall.
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“I still think we’re not close to where we could be shooting it at but we made some threes in a good stretch in the third quarter, made some big ones in the fourth,” Lowry said. “You know, the way they play defence is: they contest really, really hard, but we’ve just got to shoot the ball with confidence and continue to shoot the ball with confidence and keep getting better. If we get one of those games where we get really, really hot, it makes a big difference.”
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was rather adamant that the Celtics did carry a bit of a grudge into Saturday’s game after the way Game 3 ended.
“I don’t think there’s any question that we were (angry) and guys played exceptionally hard and did a lot of good things,” he said defending his team. “But the other team is out there, too. And they made it very tough on us. When you miss, as we know, it can kinda cascade on you, and that’s what happened tonight. We gotta handle that better. I was pretty encouraged at halftime. We were shooting awful and it was 49-49. But it’s part of it. Gotta play better, gotta shoot better, gotta feel better. Gotta be ready to go on Monday night.”
Pre-game Stevens revealed injured forward/guard Gordon Hayward was due back on the NBA campus on Sunday at which point he will have to undergo a four-day quarantine. But as for a return, Stevens tamped down expectations. “He’s not going to play any time soon,” he said … The Miami Heat are a win away from sending the East’s No. 1 seeded Milwaukee Bucks home from the bubble. News yesterday had Giannis Antetokounmpo questionable for Game 4 with an ankle sprain which makes things infinintely tougher for the Bucks who would be without their leading scorer and leading rebounder … Speaking of the Heat, and we only bring this to your attention to start stoking the fire in case the matchup eventually comes to pass. But long-time Heat beat writer Ira Winderman was asked in his daily exchange with readers who he thought the Heat would rather face in an Eastern Final should they eventually finish off the Bucks. Winderman who knows better than most not to mess with the basketball gods, began by reminding his reader the Heat had not yet qualified for the Conference Final. Only after that did he finally admit the Heat would probably prefer to see the Raptors who they handled better in the regular season than they fared against the Celtics. But don’t let that stop you from starting your Miami-doesn’t respect-Toronto file.