The defending champions have their backs against the wall.
The Boston Celtics defeated the Toronto Raptors 102-99 in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference second-round series at Walt Disney World Resort and seized a 2-0 lead in the process. It was more of the same for Boston, which won Game 1 in convincing fashion by 18 points and also took home three of the four regular-season/seeding meetings against Toronto.
Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart, Kemba Walker and Jaylen Brown led the way for the victors, while Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby spearheaded the losing effort for the Raptors.
Notable Player Stats
- Jayson Tatum, F, BOS: 34 PTS, 8 REB, 6 AST
- Marcus Smart, G, BOS: 19 PTS, 6-of-11 3PT
- Kemba Walker, G, BOS: 17 PTS, 6 REB, 4 AST
- Jaylen Brown, F, BOS: 16 PTS, 8 REB, 3 STL, 2 BLK
- Fred VanVleet, G, TOR: 19 PTS, 7 AST, 5 REB
- OG Anunoby, F, TOR: 20 PTS, 7 REB
- Serge Ibaka, F, TOR: 17 PTS, 9 REB, 2 BLK
- Kyle Lowry, G, TOR: 16 PTS, 7 AST, 5 REB, 4 STL
- Pascal Siakam, F, TOR: 17 PTS, 8 REB, 6 AST, 3 STL
Tatum's Start and Finish from Kemba, Smart Enough for Celtics
It's fairly clear going into a matchup with the Celtics that the path to victory is stopping Tatum and Brown.
Unfortunately for opponents, that's far easier said than done.
Tatum and Brown were in full control on the offensive end out of the gates once again in Game 2, as they both quickly found their stroke from deep and didn't hesitate to attack the lane when opportunities presented themselves. Tatum supplemented his scoring with a readiness to battle for boards, while Brown bothered perimeter shooters and created turnovers on the defensive side.
Tatum continued to control the game with his smooth approach and a mix of free throws and outside shooting throughout, but Smart stepped into the hero role in the fourth quarter.
After the Raptors extended their lead to double digits in the second half, Smart drilled three straight triples in the fourth to quickly cut into it. His fourth three of the quarter tied the game, and his fifth was an and-1 that gave Boston the lead.
It was a monster stretch and gave Tatum some much-needed supporting scoring with the game on the line.
Walker made sure his presence was felt in crunch time with a critical step-back jumper to push the lead to three with 41 seconds remaining. It turned out to be the final points for either team, as Boston's defense down the stretch was enough to hold on to the win.
Disastrous Finish Wastes Quick Start for Raptors
VanVleet was nothing like his usual self in Game 1 with 11 points on 3-of-16 (18.8 percent) shooting from the field and 2-of-11 shooting from three-point range.
It was a somewhat stunning development considering he was the team's best player for extended stretches in the first-round sweep of the Brooklyn Nets with double-doubles in two of the games on his way to 21.3 points a night.
It was also concerning from the Raptors' perspective since they need him in this series with Pascal Siakam and Anunoby dealing with difficult matchups on the wing with Tatum and Brown and Kyle Lowry dealing with Walker.
VanVleet wasted no time bouncing back in Tuesday's contest. The offense ran through him in the first half, and he mixed in multiple triples, the ability to slice through the lane, a willingness to get out in transition and timely passes, including an assist to Siakam for a buzzer-beater three.
Anunoby and Serge Ibaka carried the offense in the third quarter with both hitting multiple threes and the former getting into the lane and playing formidable defense at the same time.
It was an overall balanced performance for the Raptors with five players scoring at least 16 points, but it all went to waste in crunch time.
Toronto didn't score a single field goal in the final two minutes during a stretch that included Siakam stepping out of bounds down three and VanVleet missing a triple to tie it at the buzzer. VanVleet lost his touch as the game continued, and the Raptors were outscored by 11 points in the fourth quarter alone.
They are in trouble as a result.
Game 3 of the series is Thursday at 6:30 p.m. ET.