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But, as Nurse points out, you can’t really call this a rivalry yet, despite all the memorable games the two teams have played — primarily because none of those meetings came outside the regular season.
The two sides clashed four times this year with the fourth and final game coming in the bubble. The Celtics won the first two, including the Christmas Day game in Toronto, only to return home a few nights later where the Raptors exacted some revenge.
The game in Orlando just a couple of weeks ago was the most one-sided of all four games.
“I mean, they kicked our butts from start to finish,” Nurse said “It was not a game. We weren’t very good and they were very good. I give them credit. They really wanted to play us and they wanted to take it to us and that is exactly what they did. But there are some things to learn from that, too, just tactically watching it, yes.”
The matchups in this series are intriguing from top to bottom
Behind the bench, Nurse and his Celtics counterpart Brad Stevens are two of the most innovative coaches in the NBA today.
The chess match between those two as they adjust from game to game is going to be pure theatre.
On the court, the matchups are no less tantalizing.
The Celtics backcourt of Kemba Walker and now Marcus Smart (following the injury to Gordon Hawyard) are a combination of effortless scoring and athleticism in Walker with lock-down defence and a take-no-prisoners approach to the game that Smart brings.
The Raptors counter with probably the highest IQ backcourt in the NBA with Kyle Lowry (assuming he can return from a sprained ankle) and Fred VanVleet. Both players can score from just about anywhere past mid-court and both defend like their lives depend on it.