By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Thursday night kinda stunk for the Celtics. They had a hard-fought victory in their grasp, only to let 47 minutes and 59.5 seconds of hard work go for naught.
Instead of owning a 3-0 lead over the Toronto Raptors, we now have ourselves a series at 2-1. Some Boston players likely had nightmares over OG Anunoby’s buzzer-beater, replaying the defensive breakdown that cost Boston the game.
It was a gut punch, no doubt. But now that it’s Friday, the Celtics have to focus on Saturday night’s Game 4. They’ll probably watch the play that sunk Game 3 for them a handful of times before practice, but it’s important to dissect what went wrong, learn from their mistakes, and then lock into Game 4.
“This is the NBA playoffs. Either you let them gain momentum or you come back and be ready to play next game,” Brown said Thursday night.
Giving the Raptors new life isn’t ideal. They’re a team that thrives off adversity, having won 53 games during the regular season after losing last year’s Finals MVP. Now they’re ultra confident, eager to prove that the first two games of the series were outliers, that they were still in autopilot after getting very little pushback from the Brooklyn Nets in the first round.
But while the Raptors may feel confident, the Celtics are angry. Angry that they wasted an incredible performance from Kemba Walker (29 points), capped off with a fantastic feed to Daniel Theis for what could have — should have — been a game-winning dunk. Angry that they did just about everything right on the final play, only to have Kyle Lowry make an absurd inbounds pass and Anunoby make an even more absurd shot. Angry that their execution for large stretches wasn’t where it should have been, and despite that, they still had Toronto on the ropes.
Having to erase a giant deficit against the 76ers in the first round was seen as beneficial to the Celtics, as was a rock fight victory in Game 2 against Toronto. The same should apply to Thursday night’s loss. It was Boston’s first defeat of the postseason, a reminder of how tough it is to win 16 games at this time of the year. It took an awful lot — Lowry getting hot, Fred VanVleet remembering how to hit threes, and Jayson Tatum having an off night offensively — for the Raptors to win by one point on a miraculous shot.
Now it’s up to the Celtics to take the sting of defeat and turn it into a positive. That will have to start Saturday night in Game 4. The Raptors will be ready to use their newfound momentum. The angry Celtics need to send it back into extinction.