The Boston Celtics are moving on.
It was a fight from start to finish, but the Celtics made the big plays when it mattered most, coming away with a 92-87 victory over the Toronto Raptors in Game 7.
Jayson Tatum led the way for the Celtics with 29 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists. He was one of four players on Boston to score in double figures, the others being Jaylen Brown (21), Marcus Smart (16) and Kemba Walker (14).
For the Raptors, Fred VanVleet scored a team-high 20 points.
For more on the game, here are some quick observations...
1. Nick Nurse isn't afraid to mix things up
Trailing early in a must-win game, Raptors head coach Nick Nurse went to a lineup that logged a total of ... one minute together ... the entire season.
The lineup? VanVleet, Matt Thomas, Norman Powell, Pascal Siakam and Serge Ibaka.
It didn't take long for the five of them to make Nurse look smart.
Within a minute of checking into the game, Thomas knocked down a 3-pointer to bring the Raptors within two points.
SHOOTERS SHOOT pic.twitter.com/Drw1yZk3Zs- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) September 12, 2020
On the next possession, Ibaka made his first 3-pointer of the game to give the Raptors the lead.
Nurse didn't stick with them for much longer - they played a little less than five minutes together - but they did their job in giving the Raptors a much-needed spark.
2. Kemba Walker might see Raptors in his nightmares
Walker was two different players in this series.
In Games 1 through 5, Walker averaged 20.0 points, 6.4 assists and 3.6 rebounds on 48.5 percent shooting from the field and 32.4 percent from 3-point range.
In Game 6, he finished with five points on 2-for-11 shooting from the field and 1-for-6 from 3-point range.
In Game 7, he finished with 14 points on 5-for-16 shooting from the field and 1-for-7 from 3-point range.
Containing Walker was clearly a priority for the Raptors after Game 5 because they started both Game 6 and Game 7 in a box-and-one, meaning they defended Walker in a man-to-man while the four other defenders were in the zone. The Raptors did the same for stretches in last season's NBA Finals against Stephen Curry.
More than anything, it took Walker out of his rhythm, as he never looked comfortable in Game 6 or Game 7.
The Celtics can only hope he'll be able to regain his rhythm in the next round.
3. Kyle Lowry making Steve Nash proud
You know, by keeping his dribble alive underneath the basket until something opens up - otherwise known as "Nashing," apparently.
Point GAWD at work pic.twitter.com/MD9P3GvRGH- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) September 12, 2020
4. Turnovers are killers
With 8:15 remaining in the second quarter, the Raptors took a 35-29 lead off of a 3-pointer from VanVleet.
That's about when things took a turn for the worse.
The Raptors proceeded to turn the ball over six times in a five minute span, four of which were live ball turnovers. It paved the way for the Celtics to score a couple of easy baskets in transition and go on a run that saw them enter the half with a 50-46 lead.
Credit to the Celtics, who were locked in defensively all game long, but the Raptors shot themselves in the foot on a couple of occasions. It didn't help that the Celtics did take care of the ball. Their first live ball turnover didn't come until the 6:13 of the third quarter.
Turnovers were a problem the rest of the game for the Raptors. They finished with 18, leading to 31 points for the Celtics.
Siakam was the biggest culprit, as he coughed the ball up a team-high five times.
5. Marcus Smart climbs the charts
Anytime you're on the same graphic as Ray Allen, you're doing something right.
Most 3-pt FG in a Series - Celtics History- Kirk Goldsberry (@kirkgoldsberry) September 12, 2020
Ray Allen (2009) ........... 27
Isaiah Thomas (2017) ....25
Marcus Smart (2020) ....24
This is your reminder that Smart shot 29.3 percent from 3-point range in his first four seasons with the Celtics.
To go from that to this ... incredible.
6. Jayson Tatum joins some impressive company
Tatum scored his 22nd point of the game in the closing seconds of the third quarter.
In the process, Tatum made some history.
Tonight marks Jayson Tatum's 20th career 20-point playoff game, tying him with Kevin Durant for 4th-most in NBA history before turning 23.- ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 12, 2020
The only players with more 20-point playoff games before turning 23: Kobe Bryant (32), LeBron James (29), and Derrick Rose (22). pic.twitter.com/XZr9r5RNlO
Likewise, anytime you're mentioned in the same sentence as Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Kevin Durant, you're doing something right.
7. Basketball is a game of runs
This is what 11 lead changes through three quarters looks like...
Toronto's largest lead entering the fourth quarter was seven, while Boston's was 12. Not that it meant anything. With how competitive the first six games of this series was, it was only right for Game 7 to be a one-point game going into the fourth.
8. Kyle Lowry, fighting until the end
Lowry made three huge plays down the stretch of Game 7.
It started with him drawing a charge on Smart with 2:07 remaining in the fourth quarter.
KYLE LOWRY ALL HEART pic.twitter.com/G3APr8IMvA- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) September 12, 2020
On the ensuing possession, Lowry scored a layup to make it a four-point game with 1:55 to go. He then drew a foul on Daniel Theis a few seconds later, resulting in a pair of free throws that he knocked down to make it a two-point game.
The problem? The Celtics made some big plays themselves.
Smart came up with a clutch block following Lowry's free throws...
W-I-N-N-I-N-G- Boston Celtics (@celtics) September 12, 2020
...setting the stage for the Celtics to close the game out with a couple of offensive rebounds and a few free throws.
VanVleet had one last chance to tie the game and force overtime with 12.0 seconds remaining, but his 3-pointer came up short.
9. What a season
It's sad that this is the end for the Raptors, who had a terrific season.
To go toe-to-toe with this Celtics team after losing Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green in the offseason and dealing with the amount of injuries they did ... hats off to them.
I have no doubt that this isn't the last we've see from this team.
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