The playoffs inside the Orlando Bubble will be remembered for many things, including Wednesday night’s double-overtime thriller between the Boston Celtics and the Toronto Raptors which ended with Toronto squeaking out a 125-122 win.
Boston had one last gasp at forcing a third overtime, but Marcus Smart’s off-balance 3-pointer near the end of the second overtime session was well off the mark.
It was that kind of night for the Celtics who now find themselves in a winner-take-all Game 7 on Friday against the defending NBA champion Raptors.
“It clearly was a hard-played, tough game,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “It could have gone either way.”
The winner of Friday’s Game 7 matchup will advance to the Eastern Conference finals to face a well-rested Miami Heat team which eliminated the Milwaukee Bucks in just five games.
And while it was by far the most competitive game in this series and arguably in the postseason thus far, it wasn’t without its moments of controversy due to some calls and non-calls by the officiating crew of John Goble, Tony Brothers and Sean Wright.
“They (officials) played a factor in this ball game, which is unfortunate,” ESPN analyst Mark Jackson said during the ESPN broadcast.
Said Jaylen Brown: “We feel like some calls and some things got away from us ... but just come out and be ready to play (in Game 7). It doesn’t get too much better than this.”
Leading by two points in the second overtime, Toronto’s Kyle Lowry drained a fade-away jumper over Kemba Walker that would ultimately prove to be the game-winning basket.
Kyle Lowry: When the game mattered most, Lowry delivered time and time again for Toronto. He would finish the game with a game-high 33 points to go with eight rebounds, six assists and a bunch of big plays defensively late in the game despite spending a good chunk of time playing with five personal fouls.
Jaylen Brown: For most of the first half, Brown was a one-man scoring machine for Boston when he scored 21 of his team-high 31 points. In addition to doing his usual yeoman’s work defensively, Brown also managed to haul in a career-high 16 rebounds.
Jayson Tatum: It was a slow, turnover-filled start to the game for Tatum before he got going and finished with a near triple-double of 29 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists along with two steals and two blocked shots.
Fred VanVleet: While Lowry came up with a slew of big shots for Toronto, VanVleet’s clutch shooting in the third quarter gave the Raptors a slim cushion. He would finish the game with 21 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.
Marcus Smart: The first nine points for Boston were scored by Smart who once again came through with quite a few plays at both ends of the floor. Smart would finish with a triple-double of 23 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.
O.G. Anunoby: His presence around the basket along with timely shot-making had him once again at the center of a much-needed win to salvage the Raptors season. He would tally a double-double of 13 points and 13 rebounds for Toronto.
Daniel Theis: For the second time in this series, Theis seemingly did just enough for the Celtics to get a win only to have that victory snatched away at the last minute. Boston’s wings did a nice job of finding him for a number of lob dunks which contributed to him scoring 18 points on 9-for-11 shooting to go with seven rebounds.
Pascal Siakam: He did a much better job of getting others involved offensively, but his struggles in this series are just too hard to ignore or look past. While the six assists he had were nice to see if you’re a Raptors fan, you can’t help but cringe at him scoring just 12 points on 5-for-19 shooting while grabbing eight rebounds - one less than 6-3 guard Fred VanVleet and equal to Toronto’s other diminutive guard, Kyle Lowry.
Kemba Walker: Toronto’s Box-and-One defense really limited Kemba Walker’s effectiveness all game as he scored just five points while shooting 2-for-11 from the field. Walker has to be better - a lot better - for the Celtics in Game 7 if they are to have any shot at having their season live on past Friday night.