Toronto Raptors vs Boston Celtics: Round 2, Free Picks, Odds & Predictions

Toronto Raptors vs Boston Celtics Eastern Conference
Toronto Raptors vs Boston Celtics, Eastern Conference Semifinals

When crunch time arrived, the Boston Celtics’ best players rose to the occasion and led them back to the Eastern Conference Finals over the Toronto Raptors. Jayson Tatum led the way with 29 points for Boston, but it was not all that pretty for the Celtics. The Celtics were just 5 of 30 from behind the arc, excluding Tatum’s shooting, and they combined as a team to make just 13 of 23 free throws. But Boston held Toronto to just 8 of 28 from 3-point range and Kyle Lowry struggled in scoring 16 points.

Boston Celtics win 4-3

This series lived up to the hype in going all seven games, but it was clear that the better team won in the end. The Celtics seemed to control the action in many of the seven games, and had a chance to win every game, which cannot be said of Toronto. The Raptors just struggled offensively, shooting 41 percent for the series, including 32.3 percent from behind the arc, and their star players like Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet were too inconsistent for the defending champions. This might be Boston’s best chance to return to the NBA Finals for the first time under Brad Stevens, who has now appeared in the conference finals in three of his first five years with the Celtics.

Game 1

August 30th, 6:30 p.m., The Field House

This might be the most exciting second-round series of the NBA playoffs because both of these teams looked like legitimate title threats in the first round. The Toronto Raptors looked as good as they could in easily sweeping past Brooklyn while the Boston Celtics were equally impressive in sweeping Philadelphia. Both teams entered this season with title hopes and they have been the two best teams in the Eastern Conference since the season restarted. This series seems destined to go a full seven games, and I’m excited and ready for it.

Toronto wasn’t really tested by Brooklyn in the four-game sweep, but the Raptors know this will be a far different test. The Raptors will need Kyle Lowry to be an offensive difference maker again at point guard again, something he wasn’t required to do much the last two weeks. Lowry’s rebounding is still vital to Toronto’s success, but he’ll need to be just as involved as a distributor and scorer in this series. Toronto also needs to find ways to slow down Jayson Tatum and it will be interesting to see how the Raptors elect to defend him early in Game 1. The big factor to watch from Toronto is Fred VanVleet’s shooting because although he’ll still score his points, when his shots are falling, the Raptors tend to rally around the momentum in a big way.

Boston’s defense stole the show in the opening round despite excellent offensive performances from Tatum against Philadelphia. The Celtics held the 76ers to 39 percent shooting, including 26.4 percent from 3-point range, and limited them to just 100.5 points per game. If Boston can remain as connected defensively as it was against Philadelphia, it will have a much better chance at keeping Toronto’s guards in check. The key to this series for Boston is how well it can compete on the glass against Toronto’s size and whether Tatum can help keep Siakam from making a big impact in those little details.

The Raptors are favorites to advance in this series, according to the New Jersey online sports betting sites, because they are both the defending champions and the higher seed between the two. However, the Celtics won three of the four matchups between these two teams during the regular season, including a 122-100 win on August 7 in the bubble. The injury to Gordon Hayward is certainly a factor in this series, especially when it comes to Boston’s defense, but it shouldn’t be decisive one way or the other, either. My heart tells me Boston in six games, but Toronto’s offense was far more explosive while maintaining the same level of defensive intensity that the Celtics showed against Philadelphia. Still, I’ll take Boston to advance as the slight underdog at +125 odds.

The difference in Game 1 is going to be how well the Raptors utilize their advantage in the post after Joel Embiid was dominant in four games against Boston. Toronto doesn’t have a pure scorer like Embiid, but between Serge Ibaka and Pascal Siakam, the Raptors should be able to either force the Celtics to collapse in and open up the floor for shooters or score in the paint. Regardless, the Celtics received excellent guard play in the first round and they might be slightly better than Toronto’s guards. I’ll take the double bet on Boston to win and the teams combine for fewer than 215.5 points, which is offered at +300 odds.

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Game 2 (Boston Celtics lead 1-0)

September 1st, 5:30 p.m., The Field House

The Boston Celtics didn’t do anything extraordinary in Game 1 against the Toronto Raptors. They had six players finish in double figures, their highest scorer only scored 21 points and they only shot 47 percent from the field Sunday. But Boston still suffocated Toronto with excellent defense and played fantastic team basketball to gain an early edge in this NBA playoffs series. The Raptors made only 37 percent of their shots, and just 10 of 40 from long range, as they lost another lopsided game to Boston in the Orlando bubble, following their shellacking during the regular season.

Every Celtics player played a small role in helping Boston build its gigantic lead over Toronto, whether it was Daniel Theis’ 15 rebounds or Kemba Walker’s 10 assists to go with his 18 points. Marcus Smart and Jayson Tatum both scored 21 points to pace the Celtics, and Jaylen Brown scored 17 despite a rough shooting day, but they all came together defensively. None of Toronto’s starters reached double figures in scoring until late in the third quarter by which point Boston had already established a healthy advantage. What was most impressive was Boston shooting out to a 16-point lead after the first quarter then maintaining it through the rest of the game and not allowing Toronto the room to fight back.

Toronto has plenty to learn from Sunday’s loss, but the series is far from over for the Raptors if they can find a better start. What has doomed them this season against Boston more than anything else is slow starts that allow the Celtics to build confidence and momentum. If Toronto can start games better, it perhaps allows Kyle Lowry or Fred VanVleet to fall into a better rhythm and not have to chase the game like the Raptors did in Game 1. VanVleet was just 2 of 11 from 3-point range in the loss and that clearly had an impact on the rest of his shooting as he made just 1 of 5 inside the arc. Lowry led the way for Toronto with 17 points, but he made just five of his 12 attempts from the floor.

It would be wise to expect the Raptors to bounce back in Game 2, the question is whether or not Boston can match that intensity as well. The Celtics have been exceptional this postseason at exceeding their opponents desperation and finding ways to take advantage of their opportunities to build leads. However, the New Jersey online sports betting sites have Toronto the favorite for Tuesday’s game, and I agree with them. The Raptors responded to their only other loss in the bubble – also in a blowout to Boston – with eight straight wins, so it’s clear they can bounce back from a tough loss. I’d pick Toronto at -120 odds to even the series in Game 2.

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Game 3 (Boston Celtics lead 2-0)

September 3rd, 6:30 P.M., The Field House

Marcus Smart’s fourth-quarter burst that led the Boston Celtics to a win over the Toronto Raptors in Game 2 on Tuesday. Smart made five 3-pointers in just over three minutes of action to bring the Celtics back into the game with the Raptors then Kemba Walker finished the deal for Boston. Walker scored 11 of the Boston’s final 16 points to help maintain a slight advantage over the final few minutes. The Raptors led by as many as 12 in the third quarter and have now lost five of six against Boston this season.

Lost a bit in the fourth-quarter heroics was Jayson Tatum’s 34 points and perfect 14-for-14 performance from the free-throw line. The fact Tatum can have that type of success and not be the main focal point of a game is a good sign for Boston moving forward in this series. The more the Celtics can force the Raptors to not focus so much on Tatum, the more it will open up for the budding star to make an impact on the game. On the other hand, if the Raptors need to put more attention on Tatum, it will open the door for Smart or Walker or even Jaylen Brown to take over a game and lead Boston to a win.

On the opposite end, Toronto needs its best shooters to start finding a rhythm against this Celtics defense. Kyle Lowry was 5 of 16 from the floor and Fred VanVleet made just eight of his 22 attempts, and they combine to make just 3 of 19 from behind the arc in Game 2. OG Anunoby picked up some of the slack with a team-high 20 points, including four 3s, but otherwise the Raptors struggled from the perimeter and were forced to work inside on an athletic Boston frontcourt. The Celtics had nine blocks and held a slight 44-41 advantage in rebounds.

The Celtics actually moved into being the favorite for Game 3, according to the New Jersey online sports betting sites, but it’s a virtual tossup between these two teams. Tuesday was the best game Toronto has played against Boston in three meetings since the restart, so the Raptors are trending in the right direction. Both of these teams are really evenly-matched so there are so many small things that are difficult to predict that will end up being the difference in Game 3 on Thursday. In my mind, Toronto is too resilient of a team to lose three straight games to open a series, and it will find a way to eke out a tight victory. My bet for this one is Toronto on the moneyline and under 215.5 total points, which you can bet at +265 odds.

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Game 4 (Boston Celtics lead 2-1)

September 5th, 6:30 p.m., The Field House 5th

If there ever was a must-win non-elimination game, a Game 3 when you’ve lost the first two games in a series is it. Toronto faced that hole Thursday and almost wasted an excellent effort from Kyle Lowry in the process. Lowry played almost the entire game and it was his cross-court inbounds pass over 7-foot-5 Tacko Fall that found OG Anunoby in the opposite corner for the game-winning 3-pointer. Lowry finished with 31 points and eight assists as Toronto climbed to within 2-1 against the Boston Celtics.

The Raptors had really struggled from behind the arc in Game 3 before Anunoby’s winning shot. They had made just 30.8 percent of their 3-point attempts leading up to that point, but had stayed alive by making 58.3 percent of their shots inside the arc. Anunoby was the exception as he had made two of his four 3-point attempts before launching the winning shot. However, he also made big contributions on defense with 10 rebounds, three steals and two blocks to help slow down Jayson Tatum. Toronto needed its best players to play well in Game 3 and they responded to the call in pressure-filled situations to inject the Raptors with some confidence.

Boston has plenty of things to like about how it played in Game 3 despite the loss. The Celtics won the rebounding battle 44-39, they made 47 percent of their shots and had seven blocks in the game. However, the most impressive thing about this game for the Celtics was that they almost won it despite Tatum having his worst offensive game of the postseason. He made just five of his 18 shots and finished with only 15 points, though Tatum did have nine rebounds and six assists to help the cause, which was led by Kemba Walker again. The Celtics also benefited from Jaylen Brown breaking out of his slump and shooting 60 percent en route to 19 points.

Toronto is the favorite to win Game 4 at the New Jersey online sports betting sites, but I feel like Boston has been the better team through three games. The Celtics controlled Game 1 and led most of crunch time in both Games 2 and 3, which isn’t something to ignore in this situation. The Raptors are clearly a talented team that is very even with Boston, but I’m skeptical about how well they can close against Boston given their struggles to defend them late in games. It’s going to be a tight game, so the 1.5-point spread is very fair, but I’m going to pick Boston to win outright at +102 odds on the moneyline.

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Game 5 (Series tied 2-2)

September 7th, 6:30 p.m., The Field House

After missing out on a chance to go up 3-0 in the series, the Boston Celtics struggled from behind the arc and now are tied 2-2 with the Toronto Raptors in their NBA playoffs series. The Raptors were far more balanced on offense with five players in double figures than the Celtics, who only managed to get three players above the 10-point threshold. It was those long stretches of defensive stops for Toronto that ended up being important as the Raptors limited everyone around Jayson Tatum, who still scored 24 points on 10-of-18 shooting.

Toronto’s offense was better in Game 4 with five players finishing in double figures, but the Raptors didn’t shoot 40 percent from the field unlike the Celtics. What proved to be the difference was Serge Ibaka’s 4-for-4 performance from behind the arc that led the three players Toronto had that made at least four 3-pointers. Kyle Lowry made four of his 10 attempts and Fred VanVleet made 5 of 11 to overcome a 2 of 13 nightmare from Pascal Siakam. However, Siakam made up for it by making eight of his 10 2-point attempts to lead the way with 23 points in the game. A more efficient offense would go a long way to helping Toronto win this series.

Boston’s 3-point shooting woes were a severe handicap on the rest of the its offense as no one was really able to get going for the Celtics. Marcus Smart, Tatum and Kemba Walker all shot 1 of 6 from behind the arc and Jaylen Brown wasn’t much better at 2 for 11 from 3-point range for a combined 17.2 percent 3-point shooting percentage in the game. Walker made all three of his 2-point shots and finished with 15 points and Tatum was 9 of 12 inside the arc to lead the way with 24 points, but Brown finished 4 of 18 from the field and had just 14 points in the game. If the shots start to fall again for Boston, it has proven it can play good enough defense to beat the Raptors two out of three times.

The New Jersey online sports betting sites have made Game 5 a toss-up on the moneyline with both teams at -109 odds to win. The Raptors are the favorites technically, but the half-point spread is useless to the betting public. Toronto clearly has more confidence with two consecutive wins, but the Raptors needed an excellent defensive effort on the perimeter to provide the necessary margin of victory over Boston. The Celtics seem a bit angry after their performance in Game 4, and that frustration could translate into a better effort in Game 5 with control of the series on the line. In my gut, I trust the Celtics’ core more than the Raptors’ core right now, so I’m picking Boston to win a close one on Monday.

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Game 6 (Boston Celtics lead 3-2)

September 9th, 6:30 p.m., The Field House

The Boston Celtics came out with far better focus in Game 5 and held a 14-point lead over the Toronto Raptors after the first quarter. The margin increased to 27 by halftime, and the Raptors never mounted much of a comeback in the second half. Boston’s team approach kept the points flowing while Toronto’s leaders struggled to get going in a game that again tipped the scales of the series in the Celtics’ favor. All six of Boston’s main rotation players scored at least 10 points in the victory, led by a big performance from Jaylen Brown and another leading role for Kemba Walker.

You know Boston was having a great game when Brad Wanamaker finishes with 15 points in 28 minutes for the Celtics. Wanamaker had scored 19 total points in the first four games of the series, but he made five of his nine shots, including 3 of 5 from 3-point range, as Boston’s main substitute in Game 5. Brown led the way with 27 points on 10-of-18 shooting and Walker added 21 points and seven assists to power the Celtics, who shot 49.4 percent from the floor in the win. The Celtics also held an advantage in rebounding, 45-36, and held the Raptors to just 30 percent 3-point shooting, part of a concerted effort from Boston to play with more energy and purpose to start the game.

Toronto was not only outworked, but its best players didn’t step up to help lead or try to take over the game. Kyle Lowry had just 10 points and five assists, and Fred VanVleet scored 18 points to lead the Raptors, but it was clear something was missing from their performance. Pascal Siakam battled foul trouble and couldn’t make a large impact and both Serge Ibaka and Norman Powell had very quiet nights as well. For whatever reason, Toronto has really struggled with Boston in the bubble and that doesn’t look to be changing anytime soon. The Raptors can’t get anything going against the Celtics, and without a standout performance from one of their stars, the defending champions will go home.

In six games between these teams since the restart, Boston has won three by at least 18 points and Toronto was won its two games by a combined eight points. Game 5 was a chance for Toronto to really flip the momentum in this series and instead the Celtics dictated the pace and the energy for all 48 minutes as they cruised to victory. This is just a bad matchup for the Raptors this season, and I don’t know how they can change that Wednesday in Game 6. Boston is simply too much for this year’s version of Toronto, so I’m going with the New Jersey online sports betting sites and taking the Celtics at -150 odds on the moneyline.

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Game 7 (Series tied 3-3)

September 11th, 9:00 p.m., AdventHealth Arena

Kyle Lowry scored 33 points and the Toronto Raptors survived a double-overtime battle with the Boston Celtics to force a Game 7 in the NBA playoffs. Toronto had two other players score at least 20 points as it held Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker in check for the Celtics. That was important for the Raptors, who turned up the defense in the second half on several of Boston’s key players after the Celtics led for a majority of the first half. Boston, though, couldn’t get enough stops to pull away in the fourth quarter or either overtime, opening the door for Toronto to send the series the distance.

What stood out about Toronto’s effort besides Lowry’s performance was how even the offense was distributed between the seven key rotation players. Six of them finished in double figures and five of them shot 40 percent or better in the game. If the Raptors receive efficient performances from OG Anunoby, Serge Ibaka and Norman Powell – especially from 3-point range – it will go a long way to helping Toronto advance in this series. Lowry’s 33 points on 12-of-20 shooting was also the type of performance Toronto needs from its stars in order to repeat as champions.

Walker had a terrible game for Boston despite him dishing out seven assists in 51 minutes. He made just two of his 11 shots and finished with just five points and four rebounds, but was carried by Marcus Smart’s triple-doubel with 23 points on 6-of-11 shooting from distance, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. The other good news for the Celtics was the re-emergence of Jaylen Brown, who looked comfortable in the first half en route to 21 of his 31 points. If Brown can play with that same confidence in Game 7, Boston will be that much tougher to beat in the winner-take-all finale.

The beauty of a Game 7 is the unknown of who will be the hero and who will raise their game to the moment. For Toronto, Lowry’s performance in this series has dictated whether or not the Raptors win, and he has yet to string together two good games in a row this postseason. This was Walker’s first subpar game of the postseason and I fully expect he’ll bounce back in a pressure moment because that just seems like what he does. Boston has shown the ability to survive off nights from one of its best players and Toronto hasn’t been able to handle not getting scoring from its stars. So, I’m going to pick Boston to win a close one on the moneyline at -136 odds on the New Jersey online sports betting sites.

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Josh Walfish is an award-winning journalist who has been covering college and professional sports in the United States. He holds a journalism degree from Northwestern University and his work has appeared in the Miami Herald, Chicago Sun-Times and Providence Journal. He most recently chronicled the UMass hockey teams rise to prominence over the last two years for the local newspaper

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