The Boston Celtics have done some pretty amazing things this season.
But Saturday’s improbable win over Toronto might just top the list.
Boston’s Marcus Smart put in an Isaiah Thomas miss that barely – barely – beat the game clock for the Celtics to escape with a 117-116 win.
With the win, Boston (35-42) moves back into the eighth and final playoff spot.
Smart scored Boston’s final five points in a game that by all accounts was a must-win for their playoff hopes to remain strong.
The Celtics had a chance to win the game in regulation, but Thomas’ 3-pointer was well off the mark as the regulation game clock expired.
After playing to a 47-all tie in the first half, Boston opened the third quarter with a 15-2 run to take a 62-49 lead – their largest of the night.
Boston maintained control for the remainder of the third which ended with the Celtics ahead 81-70.
But as expected, the Raptors made their run in the fourth quarter with the Raptors eventually knotting the game at 100 following a pair of free throws by DeMar DeRozan with 53.3 seconds to play.
On the ensuing possession, the Celtics’ Evan Turner, who has made his share of late-game, buzzer-beaters this season, spun towards the baseline for a lay-up over DeRozan to give Boston a two-point lead with 32.7 seconds to play.
Boston, which opted to not defend the in-bounder, got a quick lay-up from DeRozan to tie the game up with 30 seconds to play.
Turner put the Celtics back up 104-102 with 12.8 seconds to play, only for DeRozan to once again tie the game up, with 6.9 seconds to play.
The Celtics’ down-to-the-wire finish was aided by their struggles at the start of the fourth.
Boston didn’t make its first field goal in the fourth quarter until a Jonas Jerebko dunk with 8:31 to play that increased the Celtics’ lead to 84-77.
Points off turnovers
Boston made the Raptors pay for their mistakes, scoring 23 points off of Toronto’s 16 turnovers.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK
Defense on DeRozan
Boston had problems all night when it came to defending DeMar DeRozan. He finished with a game-high 38 points.
With Toronto ahead 116-115, Isaiah Thomas’ drive to the basket fell well short, but the ball wound up in the hands of Marcus Smart. He quickly put the shot up just before time expired to give Boston the victory.
The Celtics will have a chance to catch their breath with no games until next week when they travel to Detroit on Wednesday.