Every weekday, SI’s Chris Mannix will check-in with his Bubble Bits, a quick hit on something notable from inside the NBA’s campus
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla — Three thoughts on Boston’s 112–99 win, which gives the Celtics a 2–0 lead over the Raptors in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
• What a game by Marcus Smart: The Celtics trailed by eight entering the fourth quarter, and this one felt a bucket or two by Toronto from getting out of reach. The Raptors were playing well, Kemba Walker was playing awful and Toronto had what looked like a golden opportunity to even the series. Then Smart makes a three. Five point game. After a Raptors bucket, he makes another. Lead is four. Then next possession he cans a third. One point game, timeout Toronto and all the momentum swung in Boston’s direction. Three triples in 72 seconds for Smart … who was 1–7 from three before that.
Want more? How about another three a minute later. And then another a minute after that. In just over three minutes, Smart made five three’s, the last evening the game. Smart’s shooting gave Walker (17 points) time to heat up, gave Jayson Tatum (34) time to get rolling and powered the Celtics to a win.
An aside: I’ve covered Smart closely since he arrived in the NBA in 2014. There’s no player with more irrational shooting confidence. He is never deterred. He has been, at different times, among the worst shooters in the NBA. But he never stops. He keeps working, he keeps shooting and the improvements are in the numbers. He was a 36.4% three-point shooter last season; this year, with his attempts at a career-high 6.6 per game, he shot 34.7%. The five three’s he made on Tuesday didn’t just get Boston back in the game—they broke the Raptors' spirit. Smart is the Celtics' defensive anchor. When he’s making three’s, he’s one of Boston’s most complete players.
• Pascal Siakam’s problems continue: The numbers for Siakam were solid: 17 points, eight rebounds, six assists, on 6–16 shooting. But he had two points, on a pair of free throws, in the fourth quarter. With the Raptors down three in the final minute, Siakam stepped out of bounds on a drive. The Raptors didn’t have a field goal in the final two minutes. That has to be Siakam time. Toronto has some excellent perimeter shooters, but they need Siakam to make plays. The pressure will be high on Siakam to make plays in Game 3.
• Enter, Time Lord: Another bright spot for Boston: Robert Williams, affectionately known as the Time Lord, a nickname bestowed on Williams after he missed a conference call, a flight and his first practice as a rookie, has been a major presence in this series. Williams had 10 points and five rebounds in Game 1. He chipped in 11 points and four rebounds in Game 2. Williams played sparingly in the Celtics' first-round series win over Philadelphia, but against Toronto it’s been Williams, not Enes Kanter, who has earned the backup center minutes. The slender, springy Williams has always had Clint Capela/DeAndre Jordan–like potential. In this series, he has flashed it, and then some, collecting easy shots at the rim on offense and giving the Raptors a presence to be aware of on defense.