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NBA Eastern Conference Semi-Final: Raptors v Celtics Betting Preview

Toronto Raptors and the Boston Celtics are set up for an epic NBA Eastern Conference Semi-final clash.

The 2019/20 NBA Playoffs has delivered loads of entertainment and thrilling moments so far. The season resumption had promised so much and it has delivered more than many fans were expecting. Two teams that would be proud of their efforts after the season restart are the Boston Celtics and the Toronto Raptors. The Celtics and Raptors have booked a date in the Eastern Conference Semi-finals and their battle starting in the early hours of this Friday is set to be a humdinger.

The nature of the Eastern Conference often creates mismatches in the early stages of the playoffs with the teams with the higher seeding often making light work of the lower seeded teams. The Raptors, the number two seed, and the Celtics, the number three seed, are currently seen as two of the big boys in the East and they won their respective First Round matchups 4-0. Sweeping their respective series without dropping a game. The Raptors were expected to beat the seventh seeded Brooklyn Nets and did so without slipping back into their customary trait of losing the first game of their first-round clash. The Celtics were perhaps even more impressive as they laid waste to the sixth seeded Philadelphia 76ers. The Sixers were admittedly very poor and missed the injured Ben Simmons, but they still had Joel Embiid leading the way and he and his supporting cast couldn’t deliver. The Celtics swept them aside 4-0 to advance to the semis off the back of some stellar performances from individuals as well as the collective team.

The Raptors, the defending NBA champions have silenced many critics this season who had written them off prematurely after they lost star forward Kawhi Leonard who joined the LA Clippers. The Celtics have also displayed a maturity and dedication that hadn’t been present during the regular season pre-shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. Now the two sides face off in what promises to be a titanic battle for a spot in the Eastern Conference Finals. This clash has all of the hallmarks of a classic. The Raptors have a good starting five with two All-Stars in Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam, they defend brilliantly as a team and have players that can score points in volume. Fred VanVleet has developed into a truly remarkable option for the team on offence as his drive and scoring touch is often called upon. The experience the Canadian franchise has at the centre position makes them tough to break down with Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol holding court when they set out their defensive stall. The Raptors seem like the total package, and they also have this season’s coach of the year Nick Nurse leading them out.

The Celtics are not to be written off and they have quality in so many positions. They have a young All-Star in 22-year-old Jayson Tatum who has become their de facto leader, with another All-Star, point guard in Kemba Walker, finally showing his passing and shooting skills when it matters. Scoring isn’t an issue for this team with multiple players stepping forward as options, Jaylen Brown is a versatile scoring shooting guard, Marcus Smart is a dogged defender and valuable scoring asset when the need arises. However, they will miss the other All-Star on their team, Gordon Hayward who hasn’t been able to shake off an ankle injury and has left the NBA bubble. The Celtics’ centres Daniel Theis and Enes Kanter are not dominant players, but they play with a lot of heart and commitment. Coach Brad Stevens is also a former coach of the year candidate, and he will have his work cut out to get his team over the line in this showdown.

Boston enters this best-of-seven game series as the slight underdogs with the Raptors more favoured due to their defensive capabilities and varied options on attack. The Celtics will trust Tatum, Brown and Walker to lead their offence and get them past the Raptors but it will take a monumental effort. The Raps have good scorers, they share the ball more, they grab more rebounds and thus control the ball more. There are loads of statistical categories that Toronto are better in than the Celtics, so it is easy to see why pundits are backing them. It is a tough series to call, but Toronto should have the edge having been in a similar position last season and they managed to win it all. The experience they have of winning a championship might be the ultimate deciding factor, whereas Boston still needs to gain that winning feeling.

Series Prediction: Raptors to win the series 4-2 to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.

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