One late-game deflection away from taking a 3-0 series lead, the Boston Celtics came up short in a heartbreaking loss at the hands of OG Aanunoby.
One of Toronto’s few bright spots in game-three against the Boston Celtics was OG Anunoby, who is shooting 57 percent from three throughout the series. Receiving a cross-court rocket of a pass from Kyle Lowry, he heaved the ball up as time expired to seal their first win of the series, triggering flashbacks of a Gerald Wallace-Jeff Green connection circa 2013.
In a roller coaster of a game with 12 ties and 15 lead changes, the Cs willed their way back in the fourth quarter only to fall short on a missed assignment in the corner.
Outside of the final shot, there were fascinating ebbs and flows to this game.
There was a never-ending first quarter, one riddled with fouls. So much so, in fact, that 40 percent of Toronto’s and 37 percent of Boston’s fouls came during this stretch.
The Celtics converted on zero three-pointers in the fourth quarter compared to Toronto’s five, yet still clawed their way back and almost won the game. There were flagrant fouls called and overturned, and ones that were reviewed and then levied, as Boston struggled to find their shot from beyond the arc.
The Cs had several great possessions in regard to ball movement, but when the Raptors moved to their diamond and two defensive coverage, they struggled during these possessions. Exploiting this diamond and two defense will likely be a point of emphasis moving forward.
So let’s get into our grades for the night as the Boston Celtics look to recapture some lost momentum heading into game four:
Kemba Walker: A
Aggressive from the get-go, Kemba Walker scored 17 of his 29 points in the first quarter. While he only had three assists on the night, Walker was still making plays both with his shooting and creation.
He seemed in full attack throughout the entirety of the game as he went 7-7 from the free-throw line. While Toronto tried to target Walker early on in the third quarter with a series of deep post-ups, his effort on the floor’s defensive side is something that we fail to praise him enough for.
Walker hustled after loose balls, drew two charges, and shouldered Boston’s scoring load all at the same time.
Jaylen Brown: A-
Brown finished the night with a career-high four blocks and a playoff-high 12 rebounds, only committing one foul in an impressive 40 minutes of play.
Despite always being in constant attack mode and demonstrating more playmaking ability, Brown finished the night with a subpar four turnovers to only two assists.
While he shot 60 percent from the field, he was hesitant from beyond the arc and connected on only two three-pointers.
Despite a historically impressive performance for Brown, he took full responsibility for the late-game defensive lapse in his post-game press conference.
As a leader, both on and off the court, look for Brown to double down on his defensive intensity in game four.
Jayson Tatum: B+
After setting his playoff career-high in game two, Jayson Tatum struggled to find his shot during Thursday’s loss.
The Raptors were laser-focused on pressuring him with their triangle and two defense. As Boston Celtics fans, we now should become accustomed to Tatum as being more than just a scorer. He dished out a team-high six assists on the night and was in constant attack mode as the C’s secondary playmaker.
Despite his shooting woes, Tatum also finished with nine rebounds and only one foul and turnover during almost 40 minutes of play.
His ability to score at will throughout this series is a promising sign but, remember, Jayson Tatum is a two-way player and capable of making plays for others.
The All-Star wing is more than just a scorer.
Marcus Smart: B-
While hard to compete with his past two shooting performances (especially late in game two), Marcus Smart started the game off going 0-5 from three and failed to regain any of that game two shooting momentum.
Converting on five threes in three minutes is 100 percent a tough ask, but Smart finished the night going 2-9 from beyond the arc and 4-15 from the field.
On defense, he was his typical self, which we, as Boston Celtics fans, always take for granted. That said, overall this wasn’t Smart’s night from a shooting perspective. Added onto his poor shooting performance, Smart had three turnovers and four fouls during 37 minutes of play.
Similar to Tatum, expect Smart to regain some of that game one and two shooting confidence.
Daniel Theis: B
Daniel Theis almost had the game-winning bucket during Thursday’s loss as he was in the right place at the right time for what felt like the entire game.
While he had a very typical Theis stat line, it was great to see him making the right decisions out of the short roll action. While not all of his passes out of this action ended up in assists, Theis kept the ball moving and managed to not turn the ball over once throughout the game.
Robert Williams: B+
A human highlight reel, Robert Williams seems to rack up at least one posterization a game. That said, Williams is more than just a dunker.
During this series alone, he has flourished into an extremely dynamic rim protector and rim runner. He only ended up with one block on the night, but his mere presence around the rim is very much a deterrent for the opposition.
Despite again looking a bit winded, Williams grabbed seven rebounds in around 14 minutes of play.
One other thing: as Williams finished with three assists on the night it’s well known within the nerd NBA community, but perhaps hasn’t gone mainstream yet, that the big man is an excellent passer.
While not used a lot as a playmaker, Williams, out of the high post, has phenomenal timing on his assists as the Boston Celtics may need more of this moving forward.
Grant Williams: B+
Aside from the four fouls on the night, which is a common trend for him, Williams did everything you could ask for as a rookie playing 18 minutes during a playoff game.
He knocked down a three-pointer, played big minutes down the stretch, won a jump ball against Marc Gasol, and took a transition charge on Pascal Siakam — a call that was even challenged by the Raptors but still upheld in favor of the Celtics.
While playtime has been sporadic for Williams throughout these playoffs, it was great to see him make some plays, as the shamrocks’ brass always lauds him for his constant communication and willingness to talk on defense.
Brad Wanamaker: B-
Known for his consistency on both sides of the floor, Brad Wanamaker had two uncharacteristic and identical traveling violations, which came to hurt the Boston Celtics down the stretch.
Both turnovers came off a catch and were the type of calls other NBA players seem to get away with. Despite these two turnovers, he had a nice and-one finish against Kyle Lowry and provided some consistency on the defensive side of the floor.
Wanamaker hasn’t had an amazing series from a statistical standpoint, but his ability to play within the system and make sound decisions allow him to stay on the floor as one of the trusted rotation players.
Enes Kanter: C+
The double-edged sword that is Enes Kanter continues to live on as his box-score numbers fail to tell the entire story.
Against such a transition-heavy team, Kanter has yet to get any time on the floor throughout this series. As noted in the in-game broadcast by Stan Van Gundy, Kanter has played well against Toronto’s zone.
Of course, this was on the offensive side of the floor, and while Kanter produced and made hustle plays on the offensive glass, the Raptors attacked him time after time on defense.
After looking back at the play by play data, during Kanter’s four-minute stretch, the Raptors made a deliberate case to involve Kanter in the pick and roll. He was targetted on four of Toronto’s five half-court possessions as the Raptors converted on all four of these pick and roll plays.
Moving forward, Kanter’s lack of defensive mobility will hurt his chances to play as Boston may only use him in short spurts throughout the rest of this series.