Before the global pandemic shut the NBA world down, it was not all that unusual to see Marcus Smart draining a bunch of 3s at the end of practice.
Practice with no defense?
OK, I get it.
But in a game?
For all that Smart has meant to the Boston Celtics and their upper-echelon defense, his shot-making in Game 2 against Toronto was otherworldly.
While there were others who carried Boston in the final minutes of play, it was Smart’s shot-making in the fourth that meant everything to Boston which rallied for a 102-99 win.
The 6-foot-4 Smart tallied 19 points which included a stretch in the fourth quarter in which he made five consecutive 3-pointers - yes, FIVE CONSECUTIVE 3-POINTERS - which was vital to Boston’s come-from behind victory to put Boston ahead 2-0 in the best-of-seven series.
“They kept leaving me open,” Smart, 6-for-11 from 3-point range on Tuesday, told ESPN’s Malika Andrews following the Celtics win. “I knew they would start falling; just keep shooting.”
And he did.
But this win like Game 1 and for that matter the Celtics in the postseason, was not a one-man show.
And because of the collective efforts of all the players Boston puts on the floor, they are now just two wins away from advancing to the Eastern Conference finals for the third time in the last four seasons and in doing so, end Toronto’s reign as NBA champion.
Jayson Tatum: He continues to affirm his status as one of the NBA’s brightest talents, coming up with strong performances in the most meaningful games of the season. Tatum once again came up big for Boston, leading all scorers in Game 2 with playoff career-high 34 points to go with eight rebounds and six assists.
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Fred VanVleet: For most of the game, VanVleet gave Toronto a little bit of everything that kept the Raptors toe-to-toe with Boston for most of Game 2. VanVleet would finish the night off with 19 points to go with seven assists and five rebounds.
Robert Williams: Boston can’t win this series without some degree of bench scoring and Robert Williams III has been a reliable source in both Games 1 and 2 of this series. In Game 2, Williams came off the Celtics bench to score 11 points - 10 in the first quarter - to go with four rebounds and a blocked shot.
OG Anunoby: As impressive as Robert Williams was for Boston, Anunoby was a major problem for the Celtics. In addition to strong play defensively, his scoring off the dribble as well as ability to knock down corner 3’s gave the Raptors a much-needed lift that was nowhere to be found in Game 1 as he finished with a team-high 20 points and seven rebounds.
Kemba Walker: The first half was about as bad as it could be for Walker who missed all eight of his shots from the field. But when the game mattered, Walker was front-and-center to deliver for the Celtics as he finished with 17 points which included a last-second, step-back jumper against Serge Ibaka in the closing moments of play.
Pascal Siakam: He may be an All-Star, but he continues to come up short when it matters most against Boston. A late-game turnover by Siakam in the game’s closing moments was indeed a key factor in the game’s final outcome. He would finish with 17 points, eight rebounds and six assists with his late-game miscue being his lone turnover for the game.
Kyle Lowry: He had 16 points on 5-for-16 shooting but never put his imprint on the game, something the Raptors desperately needed in Game 2.