BOSTON – Before this season began, the Boston Celtics and the Toronto Raptors were tied to the Eastern Conference finals with the right to claim the throne that LeBron James and his team had been claiming for eight years.
Then the season started. And while the Raptors looked exactly like the team they should be, the Celtics fought their way out of the gate and were offended by a gasp. It looked like Friday evening, when the Raptors in TD Garden took control of the first three quarters.
Kyrie Irving, however, had other ideas.
Irving finished with 43 points ̵
For Boston it was a much needed victory in a game that could easily be confused in late May, not mid-November.
"In the regular season, it's not often that you have games like this," Irving said. "So you want to take full advantage of them – they're a great test for your team at both ends of the basketball court, a great player in the other locker room, so you just have to stand on your P and Q for the unknown, and that's the competition.
"The level of the game is increasing and you just have to appreciate it."
Irving has certainly increased his level of play, and that of the Celtics as a whole.
Even with subtle improvements lately, Boston has reached the night in offensive efficiency (23rd in the league), largely due to the battles that came to the basket 19659004] For much of Friday, this was again the case: the Celtics opted for one Jumpers after the other and either did not come to the edge or the bad line.When Raptors striker Pascal Siakam had hit two of them, he opened the fourth quarter, Toronto had 25 Free Throws Tries to Boston Only 12.
But then it seemed a light finally came out for the Celtics, especially for Irving. And when he and his teammates began attacking the rim, things finally began to open up offensively for Boston.
"We need to attack the color better, period," said Brad Stevens, Celtics coach. "Kyrie's ability to penetrate there is so unique, we just have to be better."
The Celtics looked in the fourth quarter and overtime as a completely different team, which eventually played with aggressiveness.
Asked about the offense after the game, Irving repeatedly used the word "aggressive" to describe not only how Boston played late on Friday, but also how to play it forward.
In the fourth quarter he scored 19 points. 11 in a row for Boston in a section, and a series of increasingly difficult layups in and around the edge to keep the Celtics in the game.
"It's just a mindset," said Irving. "It's a mindset that we just have to pull into all of us."
"You just have to find the happy balance of the 3-point line, come to the wheel and then no hard 2s but take 2s from the second Side-action or just drive to the limit and be aggressive. "Irving's aggression was contagious this Friday, especially for Jayson Tatum, whose performance at a later point in the game matched much more with his breakthrough rookie campaign last season.
Tatum had only in the first half scored two points in 1-of-5 shooting, while Tatum scored 21 and 7 for 8 in the second half and overtime.
More importantly, Tatum paused He pardoned the jumpers and attacked the rim In the quarter he came to the layup to the rim, he had to catch Boston with 48.7 seconds within two seconds to regulate, and then he hit a floater in the middle of overtime, the Boston for the rest of the team to a multipossessional leadership ousted game.
"I did not play well in the first half and all I knew was that I had to be better," Tatum said. "I had to do my part."
Friday's victory meant Also an important step for Gordon Hayward, who continued to recover from the cruel injuries to his left leg and ankle, which he suffered at the season opener last year. Hayward scored 39:03 in a high season, including virtually the entire fourth quarter and all overtime, and he also had a significant impact on the game.
A successful boxing match by Siakam allowed him to get an over-the-back call and two free throws to tie the score at the end of the regulation, and then he hit two free throws and one reverse jumper at the baseline to open the score in overtime.
For someone who still works well back in shape everything was important. After scoring 15 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists, Hayward smiled into Boston's locker room. Ear-to-ear smile.
Hayward admitted that he was surprised that Stevens had kept him on the ground for so long.
"I'm happy he left me," Hayward said. "It felt good to play so many minutes, it's been so long since I did that, so it's a good confidence boost."
To defeat the Raptors in the playoffs – let alone fight them Golden State Warriors in the NBA Final – The Celtics need the version of Hayward they signed in July 2017. This achievement was in many ways one step closer to the return of the player.
With all that was said, Toronto still had its chances. Kyle Lowry was terrible, went 3-for-12 and finished four times as he ended up with 14 points and seven assists. OG Anunoby, however, left a sprained wrist in the second quarter, though the Raptors were not too worried about the injury. Danny Green was hit with two questionable calls over a 35-second period to deliver at 3:43 to go into regulation, and his absence was a clear problem for the Raptors who were late in regulation and overtime.
The same thing happened when Green was ousted by Wednesday's reverse losses to the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday. And Kawhi Leonard, who finished in 42 minutes with 31 points, 15 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals, had a compelling look at a playful jumper at the end of the regulation, which was only a few inches away from this result.
Toronto could easily get 14: 2 and come away with a pair of emotional victories. Instead, the Raptors are 12: 4 and will take a three-game defeat to Chicago on Saturday night.
"I'm not worried about [the record] whatever it is," said Lowry. "The losses, what is this, Game 16? I think we are in a good position to be 12: 4, we lost three winning games.
" It's just a learning process.
The Celtics on Friday should also serve as a learning process: The game changed as a steady diet changed jumps to a healthy dose of Irving and, to a lesser extent, Tatum became aggressive and attacked the rim.
This time The thing went in favor of Celtics in favor of Boston, so that the Celtics can see their potential, if they play with this aggression, it must become the rule and not the exception.