The Toronto Raptors aren't going quietly in guarding their NBA championship this postseason, as they've rattled off two straight wins to tie their second-round series with the Boston Celtics ahead of Monday's Game 5.
An amazing buzzer-beating 3-pointer by OG Anunoby won Game 3 to give Toronto life and momentum. For an encore, the Raptors once again played suffocating defense amid a 100-93 victory the last time out.
Keep going for the rest of abe Insights' preview, wherein you'll find the best odds across all major sportsbooks, analysis of the main betting lines, key stats to ponder and more.
Date: Monday, September 7
Time: 6:30 p.m. ET
Implied Probabilities: Celtics 55%; Raptors 49%
Spread: BOS -1.5
Moneyline: BOS -120; TOR +105
Other than Celtics star Gordon Hayward still nursing a sprained ankle, there aren't any major injuries to speak of for either squad, which is ideal. You want to see playoff series with teams showcasing their full-strength rosters.
The glaring loss for the Raptors from last year's title run is Kawhi Leonard, but Anunoby has stepped up as an elite wing defender in his absence. Meanwhile, Pascal Siakam shoulders more of the scoring load, and Fred VanVleet's continued improvement on both ends of the floor has helped Toronto back into this series.
78.9 vs. 73.8: The Raptors have a sizable edge in defensive rebounding percentage over their last two wins. They only ranked 22nd in the regular season to Boston's 16th, so it's evident Toronto is making a concerted effort to finish defensive possessions by crashing the glass. It's paying dividends.
1.82 vs. 1.19: The Celtics' offense hasn't been proficient in distributing during the conference semifinals, reflected in their latter figure of assist-to-turnover ratio, which is better than only Houston over the past four games among teams remaining. The Raptors' number ranks second to Miami during that span.
34.0 vs. 31.1: These are the 3-point shooting percentages for the series for Boston and Toronto respectively. Whichever side steps up with superior performance from beyond the arc is likely to win Game 5 and advance to the Conference Finals.
Sometimes the phrase "it's a make-or-miss league" is thrown around. In this matchup, it's a little more nuanced than that. Both the Raptors and Celtics have elite perimeter length and can contest 3-pointers with the best in all of basketball, so it's harder to sink shots that are challenged so heavily.
It's more disconcerting that Toronto can't knock shots down from outside. Often, the Celtics' best players like Jayson Tatum, Kemba Walker and Jaylen Brown are creating their own shots off the dribble. These have a higher degree of difficulty, and especially against defense that's of a higher caliber, it's expected to yield a fair amount of misses.
But as the A/TO ratio numbers show, along with assist percentage in this series and before, Toronto moves the ball much more and functions as a collective unit on offense more so than Boston does. This tends to yield more open looks, but until the Raptors shot 38% in Game 4 (17-for-44) from beyond the arc, it was especially dire.
Was Toronto's perimeter shooting resurgence in the last outing a flash in the pan, or is it a sign coach Nick Nurse and Co. have figured out the proper schematics to execute against the C's in the half court? Kyle Lowry and VanVleet accounted for nine of the 3-pointers made, while Siakam was just 2-of-13 shooting from downtown.
Tatum, Brown and Walker combined to miss 19 of 23 treys in Game 4, and Boston only lost by seven. It stands to reason if either or two of them can get back on track, the C's may wind up pushing Toronto to the precipice of leaving Orlando.
The Raptors have tons of momentum right now, but Boston has more weapons on offense who can erupt for a big night at any time. Most point total bets should trend to the Under given the poor 3-point shooting on both sides, but picking the spread and moneyline is more difficult.
Oddsmakers still favor the C's probably for their superior offensive personnel. Still, there's championship DNA on Toronto's side, so look for a slight edge in bets to favor the Raptors' spread and moneyline.
Note: Odds current as of 1:15 p.m. ET on Monday, September 7.
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