ORLANDO, Fla. — With all that was at stake on both sides, the extracurricular activity should have been expected.
A win-or-go home scenario for the reigning champion Toronto Raptors. A win and advance to the Eastern Conference finals for the Boston Celtics.
The playoffs tend to bring out emotions, especially when the matchup is as tightly contested as this Eastern Conference semifinal has become.
But the emotions overflowed on both sides at the end of Game 6 Wednesday night at HP Field House, where the Raptors saved their season with a wild 125-122 double-overtime win that produced plenty of drama to carry us all to Friday night’s winner-take-all Game 7.
Straight answers were hard to come by when it was over. Both benches cleared at the end and both teams met under the basket at the end of the court that led to both locker rooms. Ultimately they were separated without incident, but we know what comes next.
Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry exited the building with three “beautiful” stitches. His Celtics counterpart, Kemba Walker, departed with an ice pack on his left knee and deflated after coming oh so close to moving on. Both teams left having authored an instant playoff classic, complete with the requisite missed opportunities, great plays, finger-pointing, mean-mugging and emotional exhaustion that is sure to stoke the lead up to Game 7.
“I’m not sure,” Walker said when asked what went down after the final buzzer. “I’m being perfectly honest with you, I’m not sure. A little scrum … I don’t know, it happens.”
Lowry walked into the interview room after the game and apologized for being late, due to the need for stitches after taking an inadvertent elbow to the face during the game. But he wasn’t divulging any details on what happened postgame, or the barking that went on between him and Raptors coach Nick Nurse in a timeout huddle late in the second overtime. Lowry appeared to think the timeout was unnecessary with only a half-second left, and the Raptors only needing to inbound the ball.
“I don’t know what you are talking about, next question,” Lowry said when asked about the back-and-forth with Nurse. “I don’t know what you are talking about, next question.”
Celtics swingman Jaylen Brown didn’t provide any details about the postgame “scrum” but did deliver some pointed commentary about what should and shouldn’t go on, taking direct aim at the Raptors coaching staff.
“You know, a lot of emotions and things like that swirling, etc. I ain’t really gonna speak on it too much,” Brown said before, of course, going on. “But it’s a lot of emotions going on. It’s an intense series. Things like this tend to happen. It’s a lot of testosterone … ain’t nothing to worry about. We got to be ready to fight. That’s a respectable organization and I expect them to act accordingly. You know, things seemed to get out of hand at times … from coaching staffs, etc. Just keep it under control, be ready to play basketball and be ready to fight.”
Raptors coach Nick Nurse disagreed with any suggestions that things got out of hand from the bench.
“No,” Nurse said. “We were just competing.”
We’re guaranteed to see more of it Friday night.
Lowry said the Raptors are built for this, having grinded their way through all sorts of adversity to win a title last season. The Raptors, he said, are always ready to go at it between the lines.
“Every game is a different game. Every single game is a different game, And every game, every play, every possession in the playoffs is going to be a challenge,” he said. “It’s two versus three, two teams in the same division. They got some young studs that are coming up and we’ve got a team that has been through some battles. We’re just trying to find a way to win the next game on our team.”
Walker said the Celtics will be ready as well and took offense to anyone questioning otherwise.
Walker was asked why he’s confident the Celtics can finally finish what they started against the Raptors.
“Why wouldn’t I be?” Walker said, “We have great players and we’re really competitive, That was a hard-fought game right there. We could have given up. We didn’t. We fought hard and made plays throughout the whole game and it took two overtimes. So yeah, I’m confident. We have a good group of guys. We love playing basketball with each other. We love making each other better. So yeah, I know we’ll respond and come out and play hard again.”
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