The Boston Celtics are back in control of their second-round series with the Toronto Raptors. After losing Games 3 and 4, the Celtics bounced back in a major way on Monday night, dominating Game 5 from start to finish to take a 111-89 win, and a 3-2 series lead.
Boston led from start to finish and set the tone early by holding the Raptors to just 11 points in the first quarter. They dominated on both ends of the floor and led by as much as 30 at one point in the second half. Jaylen Brown recovered from a brutal Game 4 performance to lead the way with 27 points and six rebounds, and all five starters scored in double figures.
The Raptors got off to a miserable start in Game 5, and were never able to recover. Their 11 first-quarter points tied a franchise record for second-fewest points in any playoff quarter, and they couldn’t keep the Celtics in front of them on the other end. Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam both struggled mightily, combining for only 20 points.
Here are three key takeaways from the game:
1. Celtics dominate defensively
The Celtics were one of the best defensive teams in the league in the regular season, finishing fourth with a defensive rating of 104.6. They put that ability on full display in Game 5, locking down the Raptors all game long to secure a vital win and take control of the series.
It took the Raptors two and a half minutes to even get on the board, which foreshadowed how the rest of the game would play out. The Celtics held them to 11 points in the entire first quarter, which tied a Toronto record for second-fewest points in any quarter in franchise playoff history.
For the game, the Raptors shot 38.8 percent from the field, 30 percent from the 3-point line and turned the ball over 13 times. And it wasn’t a case of just missing shots. The Celtics were fighting through screens, keeping the Raptors’ guards in front of them, contesting shots both inside and outside and in general making life extremely difficult for the Raptors.
Here’s a perfect example from the first quarter, which shows just how locked in the Celtics were. Daniel Theis gets switched onto Kyle Lowry and stays down on his pump fakes, shuts down multiple drive attempts and eventually forces an airball. When Lowry can’t even get into the paint against an opposing center, you know it’s a tough night.
2. Jaylen bounces back
Jaylen Brown was, to put it bluntly, very bad in Game 4. No one on the Celtics played all that well, but Brown’s 4 of 18 shooting performance stood out, and he scored a playoff-low 14 points in the loss. With Gordon Hayward still out due to an ankle injury, the Celtics can’t afford nights like that from Brown.
They didn’t have to worry about him on Monday night. He drained a 3-pointer on the first possession, and was off and running, turning in a game-high 27 points on 10 of 18 from the field, to go along with six rebounds and three steals. Most encouraging was that he was playing with force and confidence on both ends of the floor.
His poster dunk over OG Anunoby late in the first quarter was not only the play of the game, but one of the highlights of the entire postseason so far. When Brown is playing like this, the Celtics are very tough to beat.
3. Defending champs on the brink
After going down 2-0 to start this series, the Raptors showed great fight to even things up at 2-2, thanks in large part to OG Anunoby’s miracle game-winner in Game 3. But for whatever reason, they didn’t come out with the energy or effort necessary for a pivotal Game 5.
Now, the defending champions are on the brink of elimination. They’ll have to win two straight games to keep their season going, and become just the eighth team this decade to recover from a 2-0 series deficit. While they did it last season in the Eastern Conference finals, they don’t have Kawhi Leonard this time around.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, the odds are seriously stacked against them. NBA teams who win Game 5 of a matchup that was tied 2-2 go on to take the series 82 percent of the time. It’s going to take some serious work from the Raptors to climb out of this hole and win two games in a row for the second time in this series.