The Toronto Raptors stole Game 3 from the Boston Celtics to avoid a 3-0 deficit.
What. A. Game.
If you didn’t watch the first two games of this series, you wouldn’t have known that the Toronto Raptors were down 2-0. The defending champs put up a fight from start to finish, forging points in ways that only the most battle-tested teams can do.
At the same time, you could’ve seen why the Boston Celtics were up 2-0 heading into this one. Their suffocating defense and multi-pronged offense blend together beautifully, and both elements were strong on this night.
But as a wise man once said, it’s better to be lucky than good. And as the clock wound down, O.G. Anunoby had fortune on his side.
With 21.5 seconds to go in a tie game, Boston brought the ball up the court and ran the clock down. Marcus Smart set a screen for Kemba Walker, who slithered his way through the paint and baited the Raptors into a blitz. He found the open man, Daniel Theis, who slammed for two with 0.5 seconds left. What came next caused a seismic change in the playoff landscape:
Here’s what you missed from Raptors-Celtics Game 3
MVP: Kyle Lowry
Devoid of a star who can ad-lib offense, the Raptors needed every bucket Kyle Lowry gave them on Thursday. He constantly put pressure on the rim, initiated contact, and hit shots that no other Raptor could have.
31 points on 23 shots sounds somewhat good until you look at how well Boston suppressed everyone else on Toronto. Pascal Siakam botched countless post-ups, Fred VanVleet’s game only opened up once Lowry started cooking, and Marc Gasol hasn’t been an offensive hub in a half-decade. Lowry provided just enough juice for the Raptors to poach this game.
LVP: Enes Kanter
Correlation does not always mean causation, but Enes Kanter’s four putrid minutes had a direct correlation with Toronto’s offense heating up. Boston had swallowed up most of the reigning champ’s hopes in the first half, but that little sliver of time in the third quarter gave Toronto all it needed to get back into the game.
Kanter was only a minus-4 in four minutes, but his defensive lapses gave the Raptors an opening long after he was pulled off the court.
Turning point: Anunoby’s 3
Other than Kanter’s spurt in the third, Toronto didn’t have much momentum their way. But they hung around just long enough for a few bounces to go their way.
The Celtics executed so well the entire game. Walker poured in 29 points on just 15 shots (!!!), buoyed by some excellent play calls from head coach Brad Stevens. Defensively they were on point as well; they sealed off everything that Toronto does well, from transition buckets to Siakam at-rim pressure. Their last offensive play was exactly that: a well-executed play to get Theis open.
But in the end, an inbound 3-pointer with 0.5 seconds left was the difference. You can implement all kinds of schemes, create all kinds of great looks, and sometimes it just doesn’t matter. Boston has been the better team so far though, and luckily for them, the series score (2-1 Boston) still bears that out.
Game 4 is Saturday at 6:30 pm EST.