By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Celtics could do no wrong in their Game 1 blowout win over the Raptors. They did plenty wrong in Game 2 on Tuesday night, but escaped with a 102-99 victory after erupting in the fourth quarter in one of the most exciting playoff games of the year.
Marcus Smart hit five threes in the fourth quarter, including three straight over a 72-second span to help helping Boston erase an eight-point Toronto lead, and the Celtics outscored the Raptors 32-21 in the final frame. Jayson Tatum was masterful again, scoring 34 points for a new postseason career-high for the 22-year-old.
Boston now owns a 2-0 series lead over the defending champs. They are 6-0 in the playoffs.
After a sluggish third quarter by Boston that saw the Raptors build an eight-point lead heading into the fourth, the C’s exploded from downtown and went on a 29-9 run. The Celtics quickly cut into that Toronto lead thanks to three straight three-pointers by Marcus Smart, cutting it to 80-79. Smart was just 1-for-5 from downtown before his three-point threepeat.
He added another tripled after a pair of Norman Powell free throws to tie the game at 82, and then was fouled as he drained his fifth three-pointer of the quarter a few minutes later, giving Boston an 86-85 lead after completing the four-point play.
MAKE THAT 5 pic.twitter.com/7OdfqTefrH
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) September 1, 2020
“Marcus has been a winning player since he got here. We’ve been in the playoffs every year since he’s been here and that’s no coincidence,” head coach Brad Stevens said after the win.
“There is only one Marcus Smart, I’ll tell you that much. Different beast,” said Kemba Walker. “That dude is unbelievable. I say it all the time, he’s a monster. I love playing with that dude, his intensity is unmatched. He’s just really fun to be on the court with him.”
Tatum drained another three with 5:41 in the game to give Boston a 93-87 lead, and Walker added another with just over two minutes left to give the Celtics a 100-94 lead. Walker was just 1-for-7 from downtown prior to that deep make.
But Tatum was hit with a technical for the famous air-punch after being called for an offensive foul. Kyle Lowry hit the ensuing free throw and two more after he was fouled on a drive to the basket to make it a 100-99 game with 1:01 to go.
That’s when Cardiac Kemba came up big again, nailing a stepback with 41.6 seconds left to give Boston a 102-99 cushion, which held until the final buzzer. Despite being ice cold for most of the game, Walker finished with 17 points on 6-for-18 shooting.
THE CARDIAC STEPBACK pic.twitter.com/pUW4slY389
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) September 2, 2020
No one is more grateful for what everyone on this Celtics team can do than Kemba Walker.
“I haven’t been in the second round and a lot of times in my career in games like that, it probably would have been a blowout. For me to have these guys who can step up and make huge plays, it’s special,” he said. “It’s a great feeling to know guys have my back like that. I just really appreciate my teammates.”
Boston was 7-for-9 from downtown in the fourth quarter, finishing 15-for-38 from deep for the game. They survived despite turning the ball over 17 times.
Toronto had a chance to tie the game on their final possession after Jaylen Brown missed a three for Boston, but Fred VanVleet missed a three at the buzzer.
Game 3 is scheduled for Thursday night.