Brad Stevens Says Celtics' Rout of Raptors 'Won't Mean Anything' in Playoffs

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistAugust 8, 2020

Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens reacts to a call during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers in Boston, Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens downplayed the importance of a 22-point victory over the Toronto Raptors on Friday, with the teams staring down a potential matchup in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

"This game will mean nothing if we get that opportunity again," Stevens told reporters. "They're a really good team. And I thought they missed a lot of open looks and just wasn't their night. I thought our guys played well, though. But it won't mean anything in a couple of weeks."

The Raptors and Celtics are virtually locked into the second and third seeds, respectively. The coronavirus-shortened regular season is scheduled to end next Friday at the Disney World complex near Orlando, Florida.

Boston assembled one of its most dominant performances of the season to roll past Toronto. It was ahead by 34 entering the fourth quarter and finished the game shooting 49 percent from the field. It won almost every statistical category to take the regular-season series 3-1.

The Celtics also posted a 34-point win over the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday, suggesting they may be peaking at the perfect time.

Stevens doesn't sound convinced, however, pointing to Tuesday's loss to the Miami Heat as a sign there's still work to do before the playoffs.

"Well, on Wednesday morning I didn't think we were very good," he said. "So I'm not sure I've changed just with two nights' sleep. We have played a little better the last two games, but we have a long way to go to get to where we want to be."

That said, the Celtics are taking on the look of a title contender.

The trio of Jayson Tatum, Kemba Walker and Jaylen Brown is clicking on all cylinders, and the team's group of secondary contributors, led by Gordon Hayward, Marcus Smart and Daniel Theis, headline depth that can match up with any team in the NBA.

Boston doesn't feature a singular dominant force in the mold of Giannis Antetokounmpo of the East-leading Milwaukee Bucks, but it's checked just about every other box with the playoffs on the horizon.

The Celtics' projected playoff path isn't easy, though. They'd have to knock off the Philadelphia 76ers, Raptors, Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers to win the title if seedings hold true to form.

It'd be an uphill battle, but Boston is showing that its peak form would be enough to make a deep run.