This is what Boston Celtics fans feared.
The late-game heroics by Toronto in Game 3 did more than keep their postseason alive.
It gave life and confidence to a team that didn’t look or play much like a defending NBA champion.
And now the Celtics find themselves in a battle with the Raptors after handing the Celtics a 100-93 loss to tie the best-of-seven series at 2-2 with Games 5 and 6 on Monday and Wednesday, respectively.
Following Boston’s Game 3 loss that ended with a buzzer-beating 3-ball by OG Anunoby, it was unclear how either team would respond.
Game 4, we saw the Raptors be the more aggressive team at both ends of the floor, with Kyle Lowry establishing himself on drives to the basket and a ton of free throws. That was soon followed by a string of Toronto players knocking down 3’s.
Boston stayed within striking distance most of the game, but they could never do enough to get over the hump and establish control.
And that has them in the position to where this second-round series is either team’s for the taking.
Kyle Lowry: His play in the last two games more than any other player, is the reason why Toronto is right back in this series. He scored 11 points in the first quarter - mostly from free throws - and finished with a double-double of 22 points and 11 rebounds along with seven assists.
Jayson Tatum: It wasn’t one of Tatum’s best games in the playoffs, but it was a noticeable improvement over what we saw in Game 3. He led all Celtics with a double-double of 24 points on 10-for-18 shooting along with grabbing 10 rebounds.
Pascal Siakam: This was easily the best game we’ve seen of Siakam in this series. In addition to scoring a team-high 23 points, he also snatched a game-high 11 rebounds with most of his points coming around the basket off drives and contested finishes at the rim.
Fred VanVleet: The Raptors’ much-improved shooting from 3-point range was fueled in part by VanVleet’s long-range accuracy. He had 17 points which included connecting on 5-for-11 of his 3-point attempts.
Serge Ibaka: It was another near-flawless shooting nighf for Ibaka who came off the bench and scored 18 points on 7-for-9 shooting along with grabbing seven rebounds for Toronto.
Jaylen Brown: He blamed himself for the Game 3 loss, but he’s looking at a bigger slice of the blame pie for his play in Game 4. Brown had 14 points but missed 14 of his 18 shots from the field. And the offensive struggles seemed to impact his play defensively which prior to Game 4 had been exceptional.
Marcus Smart: You love the eight rebounds for Smart, but he scored just eight points on 2-for-8 shooting and dished out as many assists (5) as he had turnovers. And defensively he wasn’t bad, but there were significantly fewer “Smart-like” plays defensively which was among the many things missing for the Celtics in Game 4.