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It’s the series many have been looking forward to, with even more anticipating it for quite some time.

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After making quick work of their first-round opponents by way of sweeps en route to their Eastern Conference Semi-Finals encounter, the Raptors and Celtics, two squads with some of the league’s best young talent, were set to take the stage. Except one side almost looked like they forgot to show up.

Call it what you will, but if we’re being honest, the Raptors were merely a shell of the NBA’s second-best team that they were during the regular season — a season that garnered a better record than the year prior with two notable stars in Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green missing.

The heartache of those 48 minutes in Game 1 against Boston on Sunday will be hard to forget. But the Raptors, and their doting fanbase, will have to have a short memory because we’re up to bat again today for Game 2.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. The world knows that foul trouble and poor shooting were uncharacteristic for the defending champs who struggled to find some semblance of a rhythm. There’s also more than just the game in the mind’s of these battled-tested stars. An abrupt, but necessary hiatus, can take a toll on the players we’re so used to seeing unfazed on the court.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The Boston Celtics clearly have the formula to create problems for the Toronto Raptors.

Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart each scored 21 points, Kemba Walker added 18 points and 10 assists and the Celtics never trailed on the way to beating the Raptors 112-94 in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series on Sunday.

The Celtics improved to 4-1 against the Raptors this season — no other team has beaten the reigning NBA champions more than twice — and both of their meetings in the NBA’s restart bubble at Walt Disney World have been one-sided.

“You got a team like Toronto, the defending champs, a really, really good team and they know what it takes … you have to be locked in even more,” Smart said. “And that’s just (what) we try to come out and do.”

Toronto is 0-2 against Boston at Disney, losing by a combined 40 points and not leading for a single moment in those two games. The Raptors are 11-0 at Disney against everybody else.

Jaylen Brown scored 17 points and Daniel Theis finished with 13 points and 15 rebounds for Boston, which is 5-0 in this postseason — though Celtics coach Brad Stevens dismissed any notion that control of the series has been secured.

“We’re not even in the ballpark of doing that yet,” Stevens said. We won one game.”

Kyle Lowry had 17 points for Toronto, which got 15 from Serge Ibaka, 13 from Pascal Siakam on a day where he was slowed big-time by early foul trouble and 12 from OG Anuno by. The Raptors were outscored 51-30 from 3-point range.

Lowry said the toll of the events of recent days and weeks, including the three-day stoppage of play last week in response to the shooting by police in Wisconsin of Jacob Blake, a Black man, is weighing heavily on players.

“Basketball always matters, but in this situation, at this time, it’s taking a backseat,” Lowry said. “Yes, it’s our job and we’re going to go out there and perform at the highest level we can possibly perform at. There’s no excuses, but we have an obligation right now to use our platform. That’s why we’re still here.”

Toronto has lost four games by more than 15 points this season — three of them against Boston. The Celtics won by 22 on Aug. 7, 18 on Sunday and 16 on Christmas Day. The other was a 20-point loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Dec. 11.
Coupled with the inability to leave the Bubble, and an overwhelming feeling of helplessness, a bad game was practically inevitable — and perhaps outright understandable.ints.

The Toronto Raptors hope to look less like a deer staring in the headlights in Tuesday’s Game 2 of their ensuing Eastern Conference playoff series with the Boston Celtics. After making easy work of the Brooklyn Nets, the Raptors had no answers for the Celtics in Sunday’s 112-94 series-opening shellacking. This series could be over fast and in a hurry if they can’t bounce back and show some life.

Celtics look dangerous

Not many people pegged the Celtics as a legitimate championship contender this season. Those doubts rose even further after the team lost Gordon Hayward to a Grade 3 ankle sprain in Game 1 of their previous playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers.

But the Celtics looked like a well-oiled machine in Sunday’s series opener against a Raptors team that ranks among the league’s best defenses. It was complete dominance at both ends of the floor with the Celtics shooting 47.0 percent, while also holding the Raptors to an abysmal 36.9 percent shooting. It was either a one-time muscle flex or a reality check for the rest of the league.

The Celtics might be for real.

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