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GAMBLING AGAINST GREATNESS: CAN THE RAPTORS CONTINUE THEIR RUN ON THE CELTICS AND WAS GAME TWO AN ABERRATION FOR THE CLIPPERS OR NUGGETS?

@TheWillBaldwin

Boston Celtics vs Toronto Raptors

Line: Boston -1.5

Pick: Raptors +1.5

My greatest fears for the Boston Celtics were realized on Saturday night against the Toronto Raptors. After being up 2-0, and 0.5 seconds from being up 3-0, I said they made the biggest mistake in basketball by letting the Raptors get up off the canvas after a vicious left hook.

What Toronto followed with in game four was a series of jabs and counters that left the Celtics dazed, confused and unable to hit a jump shot anymore. They looked like many young teams do when they blow the opportunity to gain a stranglehold on a series: rattled.

It’s funny because we saw the Raptors do something very similar last season to Milwaukee. After a desperate win against the Bucks in game three, the two teams found completely different identities.

If game four was any kind of indicator, history is repeating itself.

Tonight is a must win for Boston much more so than Toronto. Without home court, the Raptors can easily fall back and re-adjust following a loss tonight and comeback with a big game six win. The Celtic’s on the other hand, I wouldn’t be so sure.

Jaylen Brown was off in game four, Kemba Walker looked tentative and Jayson Tatum seemed completely lost at times against the Raptors defence. They looked like a team spiralling.

Brad Stevens is an incredible coach so I wouldn’t be shocked if he found a way to flip things back on their side. That being said, I just love everything about how the Raptors are playing now.

Kyle Lowry has figured out Kemba can’t guard him at all in the pick and roll, OG Anunoby has Tatum all kinds of flustered defensively, Fred VanVleet started to find his jumper and if Pascal Siakam can follow Fred’s lead, this series will be over quickly.

Tonight is a moment for Jayson Tatum. We saw it last night with Anthony Davis and LeBron James. They refused to go quietly against Houston as each had superstar level performances. If Boston is going to re-gain momentum, it’s time for a Tatum 30 piece that silences the Raptors.

Last game I challenged him for the same and he didn’t come through. He just doesn’t seem quite ready for the final leap and that’s okay, he’s only 22 years old after all.

Who is ready for that leap is Kyle Lowry and this war tested Toronto Raptors squad. Tonight is Boston’s biggest game of the season and I just don’t think they’re quite ready for the spotlight.

You are your best player. It’s an old basketball saying that this series is proving to be true.

Los Angeles Clippers vs Denver Nuggets

Line: Los Angeles -9

Pick: Clippers -9

Who you pick in this game really comes down to which game you think was more indicative of this series. Are the Clippers the juggernaut we saw in game one or are the Nuggets the real title contender we saw in game two?

To me the choice is pretty clearly the Clippers.

Despite how well Denver played all game, down the stretch of the third and early fourth quarters, they did everything they could to give LA the lead back. They couldn’t shoot, they turned it over and worst of all, they stopped defending.

For the Clippers though, they just couldn’t find themselves all night. Kawhi Leonard missed countless layups, runners and mid range shots he usually makes in his sleep. Paul George, Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell and Marcus Morris, the guys supposed to be the backup plans to a off Kawhi night, were all varying levels of poor as well.

It was the type of performance that if you don’t believe in this Clippers team, you point to as the reason why. Game two of the second round of the playoffs and no one shows up. They played like a team who had won three championships instead of the one that’s won one playoff series.

It’s highly ironic they market themselves as the true team of Los Angeles that represents the working class members of the city but also, they’re the team that randomly takes nights off without a moment’s notice. That doesn’t seem very blue collar to me.

As good as Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray were on Saturday, I still see a ceiling there neither of them can control. The Clippers on the other hand produced a self-imposed ceiling that has plagued them all season.

If they don’t find a way to get rid of it, it could very well cost them a title. Here’s the thing though, I just don’t think Denver is the team good enough to punish them for that.

I expect the Clippers to come back and play well tonight. Lord only knows what’ll happen after that though since it seems the Clippers play on a schedule only they control.

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