This was always going to be tight series and here we are. “Game 7.” No two better words in sports. Boston has won two games in convincing blowouts. Toronto has taken two heartbreaking nail biters in the bubble. It’s been a match up typified by the make-or-miss mantra; Boston has shot 38.7% from behind the arc in their wins (31.8% in losses), Toronto 37.4% in wins (27.5% in losses).
But tonight, throw out all the numbers. After all the adjustments and tricks throughout the entire series, Game 7’s are usually decided by character. We’ve seen clutch performances from the hearts of both teams, Marcus Smart and Kyle Lowry. We’ve seen disappearing acts from All-Stars Kemba Walker and Pascal Siakam. What will be tonight’s storylines?
Here’s our staff’s predictions on what should be a memorable night:
Shirley Coshatt: I say the Celtics win in a blow out. I think defense is the difference and the Celtics come out with the same type of lock down defense they played in Game 5 and never let up.
(Of course, I see the world through green colored glasses so there’s that!)
Bobby Manning: The Raptors will win this series. They’ve won Game 3, Game 4, and Game 6 with closeout efforts. They don’t have more talent or the best player and they have lost the interior battle consistently, but they’ve still gritted out three victories thanks to exceptional coaching, Kyle Lowry’s responses, and a continued desire to prove themselves. Their defenses keep Boston off-balance and they seem to have a run for every Celtics’ burst. It’s nothing against Boston, but I have a hard time seeing anybody close out this team unless, like in Game 5, the C’s bury them early.
Adam Taylor: I can’t see past Boston winning this one. Stevens will have some obscure lineup up his sleeve that will put the ball in Tatum’s hands or gives Kemba the room to get downhill. We saw in Game 5 that Boston is capable of upping their intensity when they have their backs against the wall, and I would expect more of that again tonight.
I do want to see how Stevens adjusts to limit Ibaka on the perimeter though – that and limiting Lowry’s drives, are my keys to the game.
Greg Brueck-Cassoli: I’ll take the Celtics. They’ve been competitive in every single game in the series, and have seemed to come by good looks just a hair more often than the Raptors. Boston should be nervous about the mettle Toronto has displayed throughout the first six games of this matchup. The Raptors are scrappy, relentless, unafraid of the moment, and capable of defending at a level that may be league-best.
But the Celtics are all those things, too, and they’ve got a small advantage on the offensive end. This game – between two very similar teams on a neutral court – feels as close to a coin flip as we’re likely to find in the NBA bubble. I give Boston the slightest of edges, but mostly I’m just excited to watch how things play out.
Adam Spinella: As much as it breaks my heart to say, momentum is with the Raptors right now. The ultimate tiebreaker in Game 7’s belongs to the more physical team with veteran experience, and it’s hard to bet against Kyle Lowry in those moments. The game is going to come down to which team makes more shots, which is impossible to predict, but with the Raptors able to change their defenses more frequently and a couple more playoff-experienced veterans, it’s hard to pick against them.
Keith Smith: Boston. Comfortably, too. They’ve proven they are the better team throughout the series. Toronto has had to give it everything they’ve got to win their games. The Celtics need to not beat themselves. Assuming they figure out the box-and-1, and I trust Brad Stevens to have something for it, big game coming for Kemba Walker in Game 7.
Jeff Clark: I’m cautiously optimistic in this one. I have a ton of respect for the Raptors and they way they play. I could root for a team like that (and I feel like I’ve rooted for very similar teams under the Brad Stevens administration), but the high end talent on the Celtics just makes Boston the better team and I think that will play itself out. Tatum, Brown, and Kemba should lead the way with winning plays from Smart and Theis. Celtics survive and advance.
Simon Pollock: I agree with Coach Spins and Keith, and I side with Keith.
That Game 6 effort from Lowry was downright brilliant. If—IF—he can do it again, kudos to him and the rest of the defending champs.
But I don’t see that happening. The Celtics have had time to study the Box-and-1 on Walker—advantage Stevens. Walker and Theis started to punish Toronto’s small-ball lineup with Anunoby at center late—advantage Boston.
And, especially during the postseason, Boston has responded to adversity incredibly well. This team takes mental toughness seriously. I think they pull this win out and advance.
Jack Noonan: I’m taking Boston in this one. Like Jeff said, it’s cautious optimism though. I believe that Stevens will make the adjustments and will at this point know just about everything that Nick Nurse can scheme with. Stevens will plan to help Kemba more on defense while knowing a solution to the box and one on Kemba on offense. I also see Jayson Tatum stepping up and playing well to win this for the team. The Raptors have done everything they can to stay and claw back in this series, but I just think the Celtics are a better team.
Bill Sy: Celtics. I respect the Raptors. I do. I think Nick Nurse is a top-3 coach (and a great decoy on the floor if his team needs a sixth defender). Kyle Lowry is the most underrated player and leader in the NBA and Toronto doesn’t win a championship without him last year (sorry, Kawhi) or dig themselves out of a 2-0 hole in this series. But I’m still taking Boston.
There’s been a magic to this team that started nearly a year ago in training camp and that will carry them in Game 7. They’ve been able to turn good vibes into good basketball all year and I’m confident that that continues tonight.