The Boston Celtics have always found a way to make series more difficult than they have to be in the Jayson Tatum/Jaylen Brown era.
In the 2020 playoffs in the bubble, the Celtics did just that with the Toronto Raptors in the second round of the playoffs. As a result, an iconic Game 7 occurred that led to a legendary performance from Tatum.
We at the Houdini thought we would highlight this iconic game and a truly underrated series that is largely forgotten.
The Boston Celtics knocked off the defending champions in a hard-fought series down in the bubble
The Boston Celtics ultimately won 92-87 in a thrilling game that featured many lead changes and clutch plays in the fourth quarter; taking down the defending NBA champions and winners of 53 games that year.
Some background heading into the game is that the series should have never gone to seven games. The Boston Celtics took a 2-0 lead in the series and had Game 3 all but wrapped up until OG Anunoby hit a heartbreaking game-winning shot.
That shot completely shifted the series as the Celtics went from potentially having a stranglehold on the series to being tied 2-2. The Cs also had another chance to close out the series in Game 6, but they lost once again in heartbreaking fashion in double overtime. The fashion in which the Boston Celtics lost ultimately made people wonder if they would recover in Game 7.
Boston ultimately did recover, as they led by as many as 12 in the game. The Raptors did battle back in the game as they were led by Fred VanVleet, who had 20 points. The Celtics hung tough in the fourth quarter, and they made key plays to win the game and send themselves to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Now let’s dive into the main categories of our rewatch series.
Biggest moment of the game: Marcus Smart block
The block that Marcus Smart had to preserve the Celtics lead in Game 7 is arguably the defining play of his Celtics career. The play embodies Smart and his style of play as he showed tremendous instinct/hustle, and he made a great defensive play.
With a little over a minute left in the game, Smart chased down Norman Powell and rose for a thunderous block off the backboard. The block preserved a two-point lead for the Celtics, and it was significant as the Raptors never scored again after the play.
Star of the game: Jayson Tatum
Jayson Tatum had an all-time great performance for just his third year in the league. Tatum finished with 29 points, 12 rebounds, and seven assists. The performance was legendary as Tatum became the second youngest player to have at least 25 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists in a Game 7 since Kobe Bryant.
It was a special performance for Tatum because he was doing it for Bryant, who had died earlier that season. Also, it was an early sign of how special Tatum was going to be for the Celtics.
Biggest winners of the game: Jayson Tatum/Marcus Smart/Jaylen Brown
Besides Tatum, who is an obvious winner, Smart also deserves praise. Besides the block, which was an iconic play in Celtics history, Smart had a good game. He finished with 16 points, six assists, and three steals. Smart was excellent for the Celtics in the bubble, and he was the perfect complement to Kemba Walker.
Brown was also excellent for the Celtics, as he had 21 points and eight rebounds. Although Brown would go on to have a bad Game 7 performance in 2023, he was known for his clutch play in big moments.
Biggest losers of the game: Daniel Theis and Norman Powell
Daniel Theis is a loser for the Celtics in this game because he had the worst performance of the C’s starters. Theis finished with five points, and he was a -3 for the game. Although Theis was good for the C’s in the bubble, he had a poor Game 7.
Norman Powell is a loser in this game because he was involved in the biggest play of the game and he was on the negative side. Powell is a loser because he is now on a highlight for the rest of time as he was blocked in the biggest moment of the game.
Impact of the game
The impact of this game is that it ultimately shows the biggest Celtics flaw during the Jays era. The Celtics, to this day, still find ways to make series more difficult and it has cost them. In the next round against the Heat in the Conference Finals in the bubble, the Celtics would struggle to close out games, and it cost them in that series.