The Boston Celtics have jumped out to a 2-0 second-round lead on the defending NBA champion Toronto Raptors, who are facing a virtual must-win scenario in Thursday's Game 3.
Good news for Toronto? Last year's squad, albeit with Kawhi Leonard leading the way, came back from 0-2 down to win the Conference Finals over Milwaukee. It'll take another effort like that to get back into this series against the C's.
Continue reading for abe Insights' Raptors-Celtics preview, featuring the best odds across all major sportsbooks, a breakdown of the main betting lines, key stats and more information to aid your betting tactics.
Date: Thursday, September 3
Time: 6:30 p.m. ET
Implied Probabilities: Raptors 56%; Celtics 47%
Spread: TOR -1
Moneyline: TOR -125; BOS +115
Celtics All-Star Gordon Hayward exited the bubble after suffering a sprained ankle in the first round, but Boston hasn't missed a beat without him. This core of players, with the newer addition of Kemba Walker, have made a deep playoff run with Hayward hurt before, and could easily do it again, although he is expected back at some point.
Although Kyle Lowry was questionable for Game 1 with an ankle sprain of his own, he's showing few ill effects in the series to date. Lowry has averaged 16.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 7.5 assists and 2.5 steals in the prior two contests.
70.1 vs. 60.6: Ball movement has been crisp for Toronto in the conference semis, as the first figure indicates with the squad's assist percentage. Although the Celtics' total is far lower, they're executing thanks to their numerous playmakers thriving in more iso sets.
41.6 vs. 26.3: What's really hurting the Raptors against Boston is the lopsided battle from beyond the arc. The first number is the Celtics' 3-point shooting percentage in this series, followed by Toronto's. That gap needs to be closed for the Raptors to optimize their chances of winning Game 3 and ultimately advancing.
19.7 vs. 12.9: One area Toronto has a clear advantage in over the two previous duels is turnover percentage. Should the Raptors continue taking care of the ball and remain active on the defensive end, they should be able to at least remain competitive.
Forcing turnovers will be key if Toronto can't close the gap from the 3-point line. It's a tall task, because although the Raptors play sound team defense, they don't have a go-to guy like they did last year in Leonard to create offense as a scorer and distributor.
Pascal Siakam has made huge strides this season in lieu of Leonard as the dominant scorer. However, the intensity is amplified in the playoffs, and Boston has a myriad of players in Jayson Tatum, Kemba Walker and Jaylen Brown who can all get their own shots.
An added bonus for Game 2 was Marcus Smart's breakout performance. Boston usually relies on Smart as an elite stopper on defense. He's often a horrid shooter. But credit Smart for working on his offensive arsenal and stepping up when the Celtics entered the fourth quarter trailing by eight.
Thanks to Smart's sniping from distance — he made five 3's in the final quarter — Boston was able to rally for a 102-99 victory. If he can keep being a defensive dynamo and even add a modicum of efficient offense on top of what Tatum, Walker and Brown provide, Toronto and anyone else will be hard-pressed to defeat the C's.
It's going to take the remaining core of Raptors players from last season's championship squad, led by the gutsy Lowry, to grind through this adversity and find the magic they unearthed to blow past the Bucks en route to the 2019 NBA Finals.
Toronto needs this win must more desperately than the Celtics do, which should lead to an even more intense defensive effort. This should cause the betting public to bet the Under more often than not on the points total.
Regarding the spread and moneyline, the difference between these squads is negligible. Most bettors will likely side with a Raptors spread-moneyline, double-down combo, because it's hard to imagine the reigning champs being pushed to the brink of a sweep after such a strong run to this point.
Note: Odds current as of 1:15 p.m. ET on Thursday, September 3.
Back to top