By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — After suffering back-to-back losses to the Toronto Raptors in the East semis, some were questioning the toughness of the Boston Celtics. There is no questioning that anymore as the Celtics absolutely pummeled Toronto in Game 5 on Monday night, taking a 3-2 series lead with a convincing 111-89 victory.
The Celtics made a statement and played some of their best defense of the year, holding Toronto to 20 percent shooting for the first quarter and 30 percent for the first half. Boston took a 27-point lead into the locker room, and Toronto never got closer than 17 points the rest of the way.
Jaylen Brown shook off a dreadful Game 4 and dropped 27 points for the Celtics, who are now one win away from making their third trip to the Eastern Conference Finals in the last four years.
“It doesn’t say nothing,” Brown said of Boston’s blowout win. “We have to get ready to play Wednesday. The job isn’t finished yet. We still have a lot of work that needs to be done.”
The Boston defense was smothering from the jump, allowing the Celtics to build a 25-11 advantage in the first quarter. With the Celtics defense all over them, Toronto hit just four of its 20 shots in the frame. The Raptors’ 11 points in the first quarter matched a postseason low for the franchise.
“Just coming out following our game plan and knowing not to wait; attacking first on both ends,” Jayson Tatum said of Boston’s dominant defense. “I think that’s what we did. We had a few mistakes but for the most part we competed for the full 48. That’s what it’s going to take if you want to win in the playoffs.”
The Celtics continued to pour it on in the second quarter thanks to its defense, taking a 53-27 lead after Marcus Smart canned a three late in the frame. Smart’s make followed a block by Daniel Theis on the defensive end, and was part of a 16-2 run by Boston.
Boston’s 27-point lead at the half was the second largest lead in the franchise’s playoff history, behind just Game 1 of the 1985 NBA Finals against when the Celtics led the Lakers by 30 points.
“We were really active. We were just trying to play hard, as hard as we could,” head coach Brad Stevens said after the win. “We were playing with great purpose. You could feel that from the get-go.”
Brown was stellar as he shook off a 4-for-18 performance in Game 4. He was aggressive throughout the game and scored his 27 points off 10-for-18 shooting, including one of the bets dunks of the season in the first quarter.
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“You’ve gotta come out every night ready to fight. If not, that’s how you lose,” Brown said after the win. “We came out ready to fight and we have to come our ready to fight in the next game.”
Theis also had a strong night on the defensive end, protecting the rim for Boston throughout. The Boston big man finished with a pair of blocks to go with 15 points and eight rebounds.
Smart played some stellar defense on Kyle Lowry to start the game, with the Toronto point guard going 0-for-3 in the first quarter and just 2-for-7 in the first half. Smart did a bit of everything in Game 5, finishing with 14 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
Jayson Tatum scored 18 points and pulled down 10 rebounds, while Kemba Walker scored 21 points and dished out seven assists for Boston. All five of Boston’s starters scored in double figures, outscoring Toronto’s starting five 93-45. Brad Wanamaker added 12 points off the bench for Boston.
The Celtics will now look to close out the Raptors on Wednesday night. Tip off is set for 6:30 p.m. in Orlando.