2020 NBA Playoff Preview
2020 NBA Playoff Preview: Raptors Vs Celtics. Which team advances to the Eastern Conference Finals? Here’s what to expect as the series sets to begin. (Ashley Landis/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports)

The 2020 NBA Playoff preview between the Raptors and Celtics leads us down a similar road for both teams. Toronto comes in as the 2 seed and promptly swept the depleted Nets in quick work. Boston comes in as the 3 seed and swept the pathetic 76ers. Both series were over before it ever got started. Toronto and Boston are set to square off in a battle of Eastern Conference heavyweight foes.

Before I dive into the meat and potatoes of this story, Vendetta columnist was quick to point out one fact. Both Toronto and Boston were dominant in the first round. Both Toronto and Boston will enter this series a man down.

VIA Andrew Zucker:

“Both the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics swept their respective opponents in the first round. The second seed Raptors dispatched the Nets with a 20.5 point average margin of victory, while Boston defeated Philadelphia via an 11.75 point average margin of victory.

Toronto and Boston will both be without one of their top players at some point in the round as Kyle Lowry sprained his left ankle in the first quarter of the Raptors game four blowout victory. Meanwhile, Celtics forward Gordon Hayward left the bubble after suffering a Grade 3 right ankle sprain in Boston’s game one win over the 76ers.

Hayward’s timeline to return is much more murky than Lowry’s, as he is expected to miss the Eastern Conference Semifinals at the very least with the possibly of more time. His wife is expecting the couple’s fourth child in September.”

To recap: No Gordo for Boston and but Lowry’s potential return to the series seems much more optimistic.

How the Raptors can win:

The reigning champs have a distinct advantage in this series. Their bench actually does damage. Serge Ibaka scored 77 points off the bench in the sweep over Brooklyn. Ibaka proceeded to outscore the entire Celtics bench by himself during Boston’s 4 game series over Philly.

Obviously, that doesn’t account for the number of shots taken but it’s still noteworthy. Nick Nurse has an entire cavalry ready to come in at any time and kill you.

Norman Powell just kind of does that thing where nobody notices him. Then you look down at the box score and he drops 20. How did that happen? Powell averaged 17.5 points per game against Brooklyn and can defend.

Toronto also has key contributors like Chris Boucher, Terence Davis, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and Matt Thomas AKA better Caruso. All of whom have proven they can hold their own.

Boston’s bench, on the other hand, well… STINKS. Now that Marcus Smart is inserted into the starting lineup, the only trustworthy player is Enes Kanter as crazy as that sounds. Semi Ojeleye can defend but needs to start hitting his open 3’s. Brad Wanamaker? Please make him go away. Romeo Langford? Stop, you’re trying to make me vomit. It’s time for Grant Williams to put his big boy pants on and provide key minutes.

How the Celtics can win:

Both Nick Nurse and Brad Stevens have proven they can coach. Both are world class coaches. The difference is, Toronto doesn’t have the fire power to keep up with Boston’s starting 5. Boston doesn’t need Gordon Hayward to beat Toronto. The Raptors sure as shit need Kyle Lowry.

Below are the projected starting 5’s.

Celtics: Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Daniel Theis.

Raptors: Kyle Lowry, Fred Van Vleet, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol.

That formula changes A LOT if Lowry isn’t in the mix. Look, I like OG Anunoby but he’s one guy. I’m not sure Toronto has the fire power to slow down Jaylen Brown or Jayson Tatum. Both guys are too fast and explosive. If Lowry isn’t on the floor, Kemba Walker can beast and feast. Marcus Smart will neutralize whoever he wants.

Let’s be honest about another thing. Marc Gasol is burnt chicken. If he’s not done, he’s close to it. Gasol would have been a player to give the Celtics problems. He’s not the same guy anymore. He’s shooting just 42.7 percent on the season which is NOT good for a center getting shots close to the basket. At this point, I’d rather have Daniel Theis and Enes Kanter. That’s a battle the Raptors can’t lose.

Toronto did an excellent job of defending their title with pride. However, their run ends here. I love Fred VanVleet but he’s not enough to carry Toronto. Fred will do Fred things and keep games competitive but JT and JB and too much to handle as the baby dinosaurs eventually crumble in 5 or 6 games.