7 things Raptors need to beat Boston in Game 7 tonight

Sep 11 2020, 10:17 am

They’ve been here before.

After an extremely gritty, defensive-minded, heart-pounding six games between the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics, the two clubs find themselves locked into a seemingly fitting winner-take-all Game 7.

The feeling is familiar heading into Friday as Raptors fans only have to look back to 2019’s postseason for the last time the squad found themselves in a Game 7 — one that ended with Kawhi Leonard hitting the biggest shot in Raptors history.

This time around, however, there is no Kawhi, there is no Danny Green, there is no Drake sitting courtside, there is no Superfan, no Jurassic Park, and no home court advantage.

It hasn’t always been pretty for the Raptors down in Orlando’s NBA bubble, but they’ve shown resiliency, scratching and clawing their way out of the clutches of defeat more than once to earn themselves a clean slate.

Both teams have proven to be extremely evenly matched and in a Game 7, anything can happen. So how can the Raptors gain a slight edge?

Here are seven things the Raptors need to do tonight (9 pm ET/6 pm PT on TSN) to give themselves the best shot at surviving, advancing, and keeping their NBA title defence alive.

1. Keep clamping the stars

Toronto and Boston are two of the NBA’s best defensive teams, spearheaded by elite coaches who are willing to throw out every inventive scheme possible to slow their opponent down.

In the games that Toronto has won, they’ve been able to shut down at least one of Boston’s big three players — Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Kemba Walker — with clampdown defence that has forced costly turnovers or visibly caused frustration.

Other times, however, the Raptors have looked lost and all three of Boston’s stars get rolling…that’s when things have gotten ugly (see Game 5).

If the Raptors can put the clamps on even one of those three, that is a good start.

2. No rest for the weary

In the words of Kyle Lowry, “ride ’em like Seabiscuit.”

As good as Toronto’s bench has been all season, it is no secret that head coach Nick Nurse has needed to stick with his best players in order to have a shot at beating this talented Celtics team.

In Game 6’s double OT thriller, Lowry, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, and Fred VanVleet all logged over 49 minutes each and the Raptors barely pulled out the win. In that game, Nurse made his final substitution with over eight minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

It’s simple. When Lowry and VanVleet sit, the Celtics take advantage. If Toronto wants to have a shot, expect massive minutes for Nurse’s top guys yet again.

3. More ‘Playoff Powell’

Norman ‘Playoff’ Powell has earned a reputation in years past for coming up big in the postseason, however, so far in Round 2, he had been basically a non-factor. That was until Game 6.

Nurse opted to go with a small lineup down the stretch, Norm got his minutes and ‘Playoff’ Powell broke out. He finished with 23 points, hitting some clutch three-pointers when it mattered most and ultimately triggering VanVleet to claim that “he saved our season.”

If ‘Playoff’ Powell shows up again, I like Toronto’s chances.

4. A few more threes from Spain

Big Spain got a haircut. Big Spain hit a three (finally).

Marc Gasol, who was such a key player during the championship run in 2019, has not been able to buy a bucket against the Celtics. He has been cold from close to the basket, but frozen from beyond the arc — a place where he is typically adept for a big man.

After 11 straight misses from deep over the series, Gasol finally cracked the seal in Game 6, scoring two deep balls and finishing with eight points.

The Raptors don’t need much from him offensively, but they do need something. Just a couple of threes from Gasol in Game 7 will go a long way.

5. Get Siakam to look like Siakam again

Pascal Siakam took another step forward in the 2019-20 regular season, earning his first NBA All-Star nod and looking like the player that could partially fill the void left by Leonard moving forward.

This series, Siakam is so far from that guy.

He has not looked ready to step into the spotlight and, at times, has looked downright awful offensively. The Celtics have found ways to expose him on the dribble and have figured out how to defend his patented spin move, leading to some pretty ugly possessions.

If Spicy P wakes up, plays the way we know he can and contributes an above-average performance, he alone could be enough to tilt the scales in Toronto’s favour.

6. Seek out Kemba Walker

Boston has two main guards in their rotation: Marcus Smart and Kemba Walker.

One is an elite, All-NBA defender, the other is not.

When Smart has matched up with Lowry, more often than not he is able to make it really difficult for Toronto’s point guard to get a good shot.

Not to slight Walker, who isn’t a bad defender, but when the Raptors are able to run a high pick and roll and force him into guarding Lowry, good things happen.

At the end of Game 6, Nurse ran multiple plays that had Lowry playing isolated basketball one-on-one against Walker, leading to buckets.

For Game 7, get the ball to whoever Kemba is guarding and go at him.

7. Championship swagger

The Raptors have been here before and they know what it takes.

This team was written off by critics after losing Kawhi in the offseason and they’ve played with a chip on their shoulders ever since, betting on themselves, while setting out to prove last season wasn’t a fluke.

This young Boston team hasn’t gotten over the hump, Toronto has. It’s that mental toughness and swagger that could play a big factor in Game 7.

As cliche as it sounds, you can never underestimate the heart of a champion.

The Celtics have had Toronto on the ropes several times this series, but have failed to deliver the knockout blow.

Boston may have missed their chance for the final swing.

We’ve seen it before with this savvy group of veteran Raptors players, if you give them an inch, they will take a mile. Game 6 was that inch, now is The North ready to take their mile?

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