Truthfully, this Boston-Toronto convention semifinals felt prefer it was 5 years within the making. Toronto got here into its personal in 2014, and Boston did the identical the yr following. Since then, the groups have all the time discovered themselves near or on the very high of the Jap Convention. But by some means, they by no means managed to cross paths within the playoffs. That was till yesterday.
When Boston and Toronto made straightforward work out of their first-round opponents final week, we have been all desirous to see the chess match between two of the Jap Convention powers. The battle of wits between Nick Nurse and Brad Stevens. The battle of the East’s latest stars between Jayson Tatum and Pascal Siakam. The battle of appearing jobs between Kyle Lowry and Marcus Good. So many subplots to go off of. This was believed to doubtlessly be the tightest collection of your complete postseason.
Sport 1 is now formally within the books, and the product up to now has been… underwhelming. Boston managed the sport from the tip. Toronto made issues a bit fascinating at just a few factors, however the Celtics staved off any comeback try the Raptors mustered, as the previous blew out the latter 112-94.
Nurse is most assuredly going to make loads of changes for Sport 2, and the Raptors’ three greatest gamers – Siakam, Lowry, and Fred VanVleet – combining to attain 41 factors on 13-for-44 taking pictures are performances we shouldn’t anticipate to be repeated going ahead. Toronto’s first heavyweight match with the Celtics spurred many questions, however maybe essentially the most perplexing of all of them is: What’s occurring with Marc Gasol?
Whereas it’s factually right that Gasol at 35 years previous now would absolutely be the explanation why his manufacturing has cratered, this is identical man who was the ultimate piece of the Raptors’ championship puzzle. He’s not placing up the identical numbers that he did in his heyday in Memphis, however Toronto by no means requested him to be that man once they traded for him a yr and a half in the past.
Final yr, he ran with the function Toronto gave him: Stretch the ground, make the precise go, play tight protection, and he kind of has continued that this season. The truth is, once we noticed these photos of a slimmed-down Gasol earlier than the season was set to renew, maybe we have been in for extra of a classic efficiency from the previous Defensive Participant of the 12 months on this yr’s playoffs.
Nope! Gasol’s placing up 6.4 factors on 39/21/78 splits in addition to a 1.6-to-1 help to turnover ratio. The Raptors haven’t been terrible when he’s on the courtroom – they’re minus-0.5 with him on the ground – they’re much higher when he’s off, as they’re plus-21.6.
Now a five-game pattern clearly isn’t a sufficiently big one to pretty decide Gasol’s efficiency, so it’s time we flip to the sport movie between the 2 Atlantic Division rivals.
Occam’s Razor will inform you that at 35, Gasol simply can’t deal with this stage of grind anymore. He in all probability can’t, and it’s solely going to worsen from right here. Right here he’s getting crushed by Jaylen Brown in a transition layup.
Jaylen Brown coast to coast Euro Step. pic.twitter.com/Na273YZcLb
— Schopsss (@Schopsss1) August 30, 2020
Now we’ll reduce some Gasol some slack right here. The Raptors’ transition protection left him out to dry to take care of the 23-year-old Brown in a wide-open lane. Amongst gamers who performed at the least half-hour a sport, Brown shot an OK near-49 p.c around the rim this season, so whereas it could have been robust to cease him, perhaps a bit higher contest might have gone a good distance.
Stopping the hyper-athletic Brown is a tall activity given the apparent benefit in foot velocity. Not a complete lot of huge males can cease a driving Brown one-on-one, so that is forgivable. However then getting crushed off the dribble by Daniel Theis for the and-1 just some moments later? Not a lot.
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) August 30, 2020
Theis has completed a superb job with the elevated function Boston gave him this season. Among the many many issues he’s been in a position to do for them, beating his man on the three-point line to go coast-to-coast for a largely uncontested layup (plus drawing a foul) just isn’t normally his forte. At Gasol’s age, perhaps he simply doesn’t have the footwork to cowl energetic bigs on the perimeter, however his expertise and IQ ought to nonetheless assist him make an impression on the courtroom.
If it has, it hasn’t phased the Celtics a lot as of but. It’s not simply that Gasol appears to be like a step sluggish. He appears to be like slightly torpid whereas on the market. Take a look at this play the place Tatum breezes by the flat-footed Gasol and will get one other and-1 for Boston.
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) August 30, 2020
It’s one factor to be crushed on the decide and roll. It’s one other to simply… stand there and watch the man waltz his technique to the basket. Whereas Tatum positively would have had Gasol beat regardless if he tried anyway, seeing the latter principally do his greatest impression of a chair on protection just isn’t a Gasol-like play on the defensive aspect. Consider it or not, this isn’t the bottom of the lowlights. That got here simply earlier than halftime.
With the Raptors down 14 and making an attempt to climb out of the outlet they put themselves in, the Celtics cleverly dupe VanVleet and Gasol into pondering they’re operating a basic and decide and roll, which places the Raptors’ protection out of kinds resulting in a simple Kemba Walker three on the buzzer. Simply watch Gasol.
Watch Gasol on protection pic.twitter.com/pkoBq5KZpe
— 🦅 (@PSkills_) August 31, 2020
After Boston’s early tomfoolery, Gasol halfheartedly jogs again to Grant Williams and fully misses Kemba sneaking proper behind him for the open jumper simply seconds earlier than time expired. Granted, this play doesn’t occur with out Kemba crossing each VanVleet and Gasol by extension, however Gasol might have on the very least gotten a hand in Kemba’s face after the very fact.
So just a few choose dangerous performs and abruptly Gasol’s a legal responsibility, huh? As was said earlier, the Raptors had a large number of issues on their palms when enjoying the Celtics, and they need to have the ability to be taught from the errors that have been made, however Gasol would possibly very properly be a problem total on this collection. Toronto was at their worst when Gasol was within the sport, as they were minus-29.6 when he was on the ground. Add in that many of the harm got here from the offensive finish together with the defensive gaffes and Gasol may not be one of the best matchup for this collection.
Ought to these struggles proceed, don’t be stunned if Toronto opts to go smaller. Even when Rondae Hollis-Jefferson or Chris Boucher match up higher with Boston within the frontcourt, the Raptors can be taking a number of expertise and intangibles off the ground if Gasol will get benched. If Gasol’s efficiency in Sport 1 wasn’t a fluke, who’s to say that wouldn’t be a constructive?