No Time for Celtics to Lament Over Last-Second Game 3 Loss
Half of a second.
That’s how close the Boston Celtics came to taking a 3-0 advantage over the Toronto Raptors Thursday night in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Half of a second, however, was all the Raptors needed in order to win Game 3 and get back into the series.
Boston appeared to be in the driver’s seat after Daniel Theis delivered an emphatic two-handed slam, which broke a 101-101 tie with 0.5 seconds remaining. But that left the defending champs with just enough time to conjure up a miracle.
Following Theis’ dunk, Toronto called a timeout to advance the ball up to mid-court where leading scorer Kyle Lowry would serve as the inbound passer. The Celtics inserted 7-foot-5 center Tacko Fall into the game with the sole purpose of blocking Lowry’s vision, but the 6-foot point guard managed to loft the ball over Boston’s human wall and into the hands of OG Anunoby on the opposite corner. Anunoby, who had managed to find his way open after cutting underneath the basket, caught the pass, got the ball off of his fingertips with 0.1 seconds remaining on the clock, and watched as it rattled through the rim for a 104-103 win.
“It’s tough,” a stunned Kemba Walker said after the game. “It was a hard-fought battle. It’s always tough to lose on a walk-off like that but much credit to those guys. That was a hell of a shot.”
It was also a hell of an emotional swing for the Celtics, given the manner in which they almost won the game. However, as disappointing as it was, they know that they have no time to lament over the loss.
“We can’t change it,” said Jayson Tatum. “There’s nothing we can do about it. It happened. All we can do is focus on the next game and just be better.”
Where they can be better, according to Jaylen Brown, is in their defensive communication. Boston has been outstanding in that area throughout the postseason, but there was a breakdown on the final play of the game, for which Brown stepped up and accepted much of the blame.
“He snuck along the baseline and we just gotta communicate better, that’s it,” Brown explained. “As a unit, that can’t happen. We were matched up and OG snuck along the baseline, didn’t recognize him early enough and he got a wide-open look. We gotta be better than that. We gotta communicate better. Me being four years in, I gotta be better. Can’t give up the 3 at the end of the game.”
It was a learning experience for the Celtics, who now understand how connected they must be against such a fundamentally-sound team like Toronto, especially during late-game, high-pressure situations.
“They’re a good team, they’re the defending champs,” Brown noted of the Raptors. “We knew they weren’t going to go down without a fight, so we gotta be ready to throw the next punch. That’s it.”
Now, we’ll just have to wait and see how Brown and the Celtics will respond in Game 4 Saturday night.