Celtics Insider

Blakely: Smart, C's defense make the difference in Game 7 win

Celtics Insider

The Boston Celtics had been here more times than they would care to remember against the Toronto Raptors lately.

With less than a minute to play, a hard-charging Norm Powell was barrelling down the lane with the only thing seemingly standing between him and a basket was Marcus Smart.

Clinging to a slim two-point lead, Marcus Smart delivered yet another gem of a play by coming up with a blocked shot.

Smart perfectly trolls Raptors after Game 7 win

In a Game 7 matchup filled with strong defensive plays by both teams, Smart once again came up with the play of the game that helped Boston hold off the Raptors and escape with a 92-87 Game 7 win.

Boston now moves on to the Eastern Conference finals for the third time in the last four seasons, where they will face the Miami Heat.

“The hustle, the block, the toughness … he’s a huge part of our team, a huge part of our organization,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “We got a chance to play in this great event (the playoffs) every year he’s been here and it’s not a coincidence.”

SCARY MOMENT: After a Toronto miss in the fourth quarter, Kemba Walker threw a deep pass to Jaylen Brown who finished with a dunk that gave Boston an 81-73 lead. However, Brown was slow to get to his feet after landing awkwardly.

Fortunately for Boston, Brown  was able to continue playing but after the game, Brown said he was sore but the victory has a way of dulling the pain some.

TURNING POINT: With the Celtics leading 89-87, Toronto’s Norm Powell attacked the basket for a potential game-tying basket, only for Marcus Smart to block his shot with less than a minute to play. The Raptors would not get any closer.

Marcus Smart with the huge block late in Game 7 vs Raptors

STARS

Jayson Tatum: Tatum was in full blown stat-stuffing mode most of the game for Boston, establishing himself as the best player on the floor for all game. He would finish the night with his fourth consecutive double-double, of 29 points and 12 rebounds along with dishing out seven assists.

Fred VanVleet: For most of the game, VanVleet was the primary source of offense for the Raptors. He would finish with yet another strong game, with 20 points.

STUDS

Jaylen Brown: The corner 3-ball, one of Brown’s favorite shots, was off the mark for most of the first quarter. But as the game progressed, Brown’s play steadily improved as he wound up with 21 points, eight  rebounds and four steals.

Kyle Lowry: After a fairly quiet first half, Lowry began to put his imprint on the game in the second half as he finished with 16 points before fouling out.

Marcus Smart: In addition to his always-strong defense which included a game-altering blocked shot in the closing minute of play, Smart did a nice job of balancing his game between that of a scoring option for Boston as well as a key playmaker. Smart tallied 16 points for the Celtics in addition to six assists with one turnover and three steals. 

Serge Ibaka: The best reserve in this series, Ibaka continued to tear into the Celtics defense in a highly efficient manner. The 6-foot-9 big man had another strong game with 14 points on 5-for-9 shooting to go with eight rebounds.

DUDS

Pascal Siakam: While a playoff double-double may look good to some, Game 7 was no different than the first six games of this series in which Siakam simply didn’t do enough for his team. He scored 13 points but did so on 5-for-12 shooting. And while he grabbed 11 rebounds, he also turned the ball over five times - more than any other player in Game 7.