On Wednesday, the Milwaukee Bucks decided to not play their playoff game with the Orlando Magic in protest of the police shooting of Jacob Blake. In the following days, other teams across multiple sports did the same.
And while it seemed like the NBA season might be canceled, the decision was made to resume the playoffs, with games beginning again on Saturday.
The Turf shared some thoughts on and support of this decision on Friday:
This issue for the country is obviously much larger than sports, but the NBA players decided to use the platform they receive as star athletes to help increase attention on what needs to change.
It’s important to continue focusing on what has happened and what needs to happen for there to be real change. And while there is more to do to help, being fans of the game made the NBA as popular as it is and created the platform these players have.
It should now be okay to start discussing these games again, and simply doing so is the least NBA fans can do to keep the attention on what’s happening and help the players deliver on their goal as they return to the court.
And if you’re going to watch the games, you need to be prepared. So here are some thoughts on the upcoming series between the #2 seed Toronto Raptors and #3 seed Boston Celtics.
FIVE THINGS THAT NEED TO HAPPEN FOR THE RAPTORS TO WIN THE SERIES
The Raptors keep acting like the defending champs
Sometimes it’s that simple. The Raptors have a team full of players that have not only made the Finals but won it. The Celtics can’t say the same and that mental edge of the Raptors knowing they’ve done what their opponents haven’t will be an advantage.
Kyle Lowry stays healthy
Both teams have All-Stars dealing with sprained ankles. However, Toronto has the benefit of Lowry likely being able to play in the series, while Boston’s Gordon Hayward will not.
If Toronto loses Lowry at any point though, winning the series will become very difficult as the guard averaged a 21/4/6 against Boston during the season.
Toronto maintains a balanced scoring attack and utilizes their bench depth
The Raptors have six players who averaged over 10 points a game this season, which means they can survive a game if one of their top scorers goes cold.
They also have a much deeper team than the Celtics and could go as far as playing 9-10 players this series. Keeping fresh legs on the court will help keep the team’s energy up and allow Coach of the Year Nick Nurse the opportunity to throw different looks at Boston.
Pascal Siakam is the best player in the series
Raptor Pascal Siakam made his first All-Star team this season and averaged a 23/7/4 season while shooting 36% on 6 three-point attempts a game.
If he can be the best player on the court through the 4-7 games then Toronto should be easily advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Make Kyrie Irving one of Toronto’s fans of the game
It’s just crazy enough to work.
FIVE THINGS THAT NEED TO HAPPEN FOR THE CELTICS TO WIN THE SERIES
Brad Stevens out-duels Nick Nurse
The Celtics’ Brad Stevens has been coaching the team for seven seasons and will likely still be seen as the youngest coach in the league in 2040. He is one of the smartest minds in the game (especially off a timeout), and the Celtics locking him up to an extension a few weeks ago showed how highly they value their coach.
However, Stevens still hasn’t had his major accomplishment yet as an NBA coach. These playoffs are a great opportunity though as getting the best of the coach of the reigning NBA Champions would be quite a moment.
Win the rebounding edge
Each team was fairly pedestrian when it came to defensive rebounding as the Celtics were 17th in the league and the Raptors were 22nd.
The big factor here though is Boston was 8th in the league in offensive rebounding and can make the Raptors pay for their shortcomings on the defensive boards. Toronto was 24th in the league in offensive rebounding %, so the Celtics should still be able to win those battles.
Kemba keeps being Kemba
Kemba Walker did not seem like the same player after a knee injury in February, and the focus on his bubble performances were more around his minutes restriction than his stat sheet.
However, Walker began to look more and more like himself as the 76ers series went on and had a 32-point performance in Game 4. If Walker is at this level for the series the Celtics will be in great shape as they will need as much offensive firepower as possible without Hayward.
Jayson Tatum is the best player in the series
Like Siakam, Tatum made his first All-Star team this season and posted a 23/7/3 season while shooting 40% on 7 three-point attempts a game.
He was the best player in the team’s opening round sweep of the 76ers (averaging a 27/10 over the four games) and has shown flashes of a superstar ceiling that could advance the Celtics to a showdown with Giannis in Round 3.
Daniel Theis returns Adam Silver’s dog
The only explanation for the treatment Theis received by the referees in Round 1 is that he has kidnapped Adam Silver’s dog.
It’s unclear why this happened, but if the dog is given back before Round 2 begins then this will be a much better matchup for Theis than playing against Joel Embiid and the refs at the same time.
This like choosing between Dylan McDermott and Dermot Mulroney.
It can easily go either team’s way which means fans are probably in for one of those series where each game causes multiple gray hairs.
The pick here is going to be that Jayson Tatum continues his ascendance into superstardom, is the best player in this series, and helps the Celtics win Game 7.
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