Raptors Force Game 7, Down Celtics in Double Overtime Thriller
BarnBurner Sports Writer
Wednesday, September 9, 2020
Displaying the resilience of defending NBA champions, the Toronto Raptors downed the Boston Celtics 125-122 in double overtime Wednesday night to force a deciding game in their best-of-seven series.
The Raptors fell behind 110-106 to start the second extra period, committing two turnovers which the Celtics were quick to capitalize on. Boston had chances to extend the lead but the Raptors defense stiffened, and a driving layup by Kyle Lowry cut the lead to two with 3:32 left. Just under a minute later, Lowry, a force at both ends of the floor, blocked Jaylen Brown’s jumper, grabbed the loose ball and fed Norman Powell who was fouled driving to the basket by Brown. Powell sank both free throws and the game was tied with 2:33 left. The teams traded baskets before Celtics guard Marcus Smart, a threat from long distance all night, drilled a three with 1:37 left to give the Celtics a 115-112 lead. Again the Raptors responded, Powell nailing a three to tie the score with 1:23 remaining. An alley oop jam by Celtics center Daniel Theis gave the Celtics a two point lead but a three by OG Anunoby gave the Raptors a one point advantage with just 57 seconds left.
Boston turned to Jayson Tatum on their next possession but Powell stole the ball from the Celtics forward, scored on a driving layup and was fouled by Smart. Powell made the free throw and suddenly the Raptors led 121-117 with just 38.8 seconds left. Tatum’s drive cut the lead to two but after a timeout, Lowry drilled a dagger turnaround fadeaway jumper over Kemba Walker to give the Raptors a 123-119 lead with 11.7 seconds left. Tatum hit a deep three to cut the lead to one but two foul shots by Powell put the game away for the Raptors, Smart’s last ditch three missing the mark.
Lowry finished with 33 points, eight rebounds, six assists, two steals and a block in an eye-popping 53 minutes of play. Beyond the statistics, Lowry simply would not let this one get away, taking charges at critical times in the game, halting Celtic runs that threatened to put the game in jeopardy. It was simply another outstanding big game performance from the Raptors legend.
Powell finished with 23 points, ten of which came in the second overtime. OG Anunoby battled at both ends, finishing with 13 points and 13 rebounds, winning critical jump balls while playing center in the extra periods as Nick Nurse elected to go with a smaller lineup down the stretch. Fred Van Vleet came up just short of a triple double, finishing with 21 points, 9 rebounds and seven assists.
Jaylen Brown led the Celtics with 31 points and 16 rebounds, while Smart, a tenacious defender throughout, had 23 points including six of eleven from three point range. After a lacklustre first half, Tatum came to life in the second and the extra periods, finishing with 29 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists.
The Raptors trailed by four at the half, and arguably were fortunate to be that close. Leading by four after the first quarter, the Celtics went on a 7-0 run to start the second and led by as many as twelve points with just under six minutes remaining in the half. The Raptors clawed back on consecutive threes by Serge Ibaka, forcing a Celtics timeout. Boston responded, taking advantage of Raptor turnovers, grabbing a ten point lead on a deep three by Tatum with 1:40 left in the half. Lowry led the Raptors back on a 8-0 run of their own and the half ended with a sense that momentum was shifting the Raptors’ way.
The Raptors picked up where they left off to start the second half, buoyed by a block and a three from center Marc Gasol right off the tap. Gasol, frustrated with his play in the first half, literally left the court to gather himself but later returned to the Raptors bench and his inspired play to start the second half definitely gave the Raptors a much needed lift. The veteran center and VanVleet combined for twenty of the Raptors twenty-two points to start the second half, leading a Raptors burst that saw the Dinos take a 81-77 lead after three quarters.
The Celtics rallied to grab an 89-88 lead in the fourth, on the back of three consecutive threes by Brown, Smart and Tatum. The hard fought game ended regulation tied 98-98. Boston’s defense which has been steadfast throughout the series, was the story down the stretch, the Raptors failing to score in the final 4:24 seconds of the final quarter.
The Raptors had a chance to win the game in the first overtime, having possession with 18.9 seconds left and the game tied 106-106. Powell’s three at the buzzer was off the mark however, setting the stage for the frantic second overtime and Raptors victory.
It was a game that left players, coaches and fans exhausted, a thrilling rollercoaster ride that ended with the promise of more to come.
The two teams will meet in the deciding game of the series this Friday, tip-off 9:00 p.m.