Lake Buena, Fla.– Jayson Tatum and the Boston Celtics are on there way to the Eastern Conference finals and they had to take down the NBA champions to get there.
Jayson Tatum scored 29 points, Jaylen Brown chipped in 21 and Boston beat the Toronto Raptors 92-87 on Friday night in Game 7 in their East semifinal series.
”If you want to achieve something great, if you want to win, it’s not going to be easy,” Tatum said. ”That’s what we’re here for.”
Even though the game was close throughout, the Celtics set the pace from the tip-off and never panic when the Raptors was making their runs.
Fred VanVleet scored 20 points for the Raptors, Kyle Lowry had 16 points, 14 from Serge Ibaka, 13 from Pascal Siakam and 11 from Norman Powell. Toronto were trying to become the seventh franchise in NBA history to win four consecutive Game 7’s.
The back-and-forth started from the jump. Boston quickly put together what became a 13-0 run on the way to an early 19-7 edge. Toronto scored 10 straight points to lead after the first quarter. Boston then went on a 15-2 spurt to reclaim the lead.
Boston went into the break with a four point lead 50-46 but they knew in order to beat the Raptors defensive adjustments had to be made on the wings.
The Celtics scored the first seven points of the fourth quarter, to take an eight-point lead. Boston never trailed in the final quarter, although the Raptors made it them work for everything in the last few minutes of the game.
”We should definitely be hardened,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. ”We should definitely have a lot more in our toolbox to go back to. But we also have to get ready for a different, more unique team now in Miami.”
Toronto had 18 turnovers that the Celtics turned into 31 points; Boston shot 9-for-38 from and 13-for-23 from the line. It was the sixth consecutive Game 7 decided by five points or less.
”Man, it was a tough game to lose,” Lowry said. ”But they won. Tip your hats to them. They have a chance to go on and play against Miami and get to the championship.”
The Celtics led 72-71 going into the fourth quarter, making this the 21st Game 7 in NBA history where the margin was zero or one going into the final 12 minutes.
Powell had a chance to tie the game on a drive to the hole with just under a minute left, but Smart block it. That extra hustle play preserved an 89-87 lead. Lowry fouled out on the next possession which the Raptors argued and challenged. Grant Williams missed both free throws from the charity stripe, but Powell fouled Tatum going for the rebound.
Tatum made one of two which put them up by three and all the Celtics needed was one more stop.
The Celtics got just that; VanVleet was a little short on a 3-point try, Walker sealed it with free throws with 7.9 seconds left on the clock, and Toronto’s season was about to end.
”It’s about will, determination, resiliency,” Brown said. ”A lot of that stuff you can’t find on the stat sheet.”
Marcus Smart scored 16 points and Kemba Walker chipped in 14 for third-seeded Celtics. Boston will face the fifth-seeded Miami Heat in the East finals, that series starts Tuesday night.