By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — The Celtics survived a grueling, hard-fought Game 7 battle against the Toronto Raptors to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. It was a fitting conclusion to a grueling, hard-fought series.

The Celtics were far from perfect on Friday night, but they made plays when they had to — better known as “winning plays.” Because of that, they walked off the floor with a 92-87 win and will now battle with the Miami Heat for a trip to the NBA Finals.

“They made us earn that,” Jayson Tatum said of Boston’s series win over the defending champs. “When you’re trying to achieve something as special as a championship, you’re going to have to go through things; Heartbreak, tough moments, adversity. You see how you respond, and I think we responded after almost being up 3-0, tied 2-2. It was big and I think it’s going to help us moving forward.”

Enter this one as another learning experience for the Celtics. This Game 7 victory taught us some very important things about these Boston Celtics, a team that continues to rise to the occasion.

Jayson Tatum Is A Superstar

Stop debating this. The debate is over. IT’S OVER.

Tatum was a stud in Game 7, scoring more points, pulling down more rebounds and dishing out more assists than anyone else on the floor. He logged his fourth straight double-double with 29 points and 12 rebounds, and added seven helpers for good measure.

Not impressed? How about this stat:

That’s some pretty good company to join.

Tatum, along with Jaylen Brown and his 21 points, carried the load for the Celtics as Kemba Walker struggled again. Tatum also came down with a crucial offensive rebound to save the game for Boston, after Grant Williams missed BOTH of his free throws with 34.9 seconds left. Tatum was fouled after snagging the board, and hit one of his two freebies to give the Celtics a three-point cushion at the time.

“He’s a superstar. He showed us that tonight,” Walker said after the game. “If anyone had doubt of that, Game 7, he had the biggest rebound of the series. Special, special kid.”

Now the kid is heading to his second Eastern Conference Finals in just his third season. The stage is only getting bigger for Boston’s superstar.

Marcus Smart Is Amazing — And A Great Troll

When the Celtics win games, it’s a foregone conclusion that Smart is going to have his fingerprints all over it in some way. When he isn’t hitting shots, he’s going to be hitting opponents and making life miserable for them. He played some unbelievable defense throughout Game 7, highlighted by the play of the game/the play of the series/the play of the playoffs when he chased down Norman Powell and rejected his potential game-tying layup with 58 second left.

We’ve come to expect those kind of things from Marcus, because that’s who he is.

“The hustle, the block, the loose balls. … He’s a huge part of our team, a huge part of our organization,” Brad Stevens said of Smart. “We’ve had a chance to play in this tournament every year he’s been here and that’s no coincidence.”

Smart scored 16 points on the offensive end and was a solid playmaker as well, dishing out six assists. He swiped three steals had just one turnover on the night. He is one of the most unique players to ever put on a Celtics uniform.

And about that trolling. We already knew that he is great at getting inside an opponent’s head during a game, but how about this little swipe at the Raptors after:

Nicely done, Marcus. He did send heaps of praise toward the Raptors and particularly Kyle Lowry (a fellow flopping aficionado) during his postgame press conference, but that doesn’t mean he can’t have a little fun as well.

Boston’s Defense Is Pretty Damn Good

With Smart leading the charge, the Celtics defense was incredible again on Friday night. They came away with 12 steals and made the Raptors pay for their miscues, scoring 31 points off 18 Toronto turnovers. The Celtics also finished with five blocks.

And when it was winning time — the fourth quarter — the Boston defense allowed 16 points. The Raptors made just five shots from the floor in the final frame.

They’ve Got What It Takes

Beating a tough, grind-em-out team like the Raptors is no easy task. The Celtics won a Friday night rock fight, and they did so without hitting a shot from the floor over the final 5:21. That is quite impressive.

It takes some serious championship mettle to close out a team like Toronto when you can’t buy a bucket. The Celtics did it with clutch plays on defense and some strong rebounding. We’d love to add that they hit their free throws, but they missed 10 of them throughout the game and shot just 56.5 percent at the charity stripe. Yuck.

At least when Grant Williams missed his two free throws with a chance to seal the game, Tatum came up with the board and hit one of his freebies. And Williams bounced back nicely after his misses, playing some tough D on Fred Van Vleet, forcing him to miss a three on Toronto’s possession after Tatum’s trip to the line.

“It wasn’t pretty and we have to finish the game better, but the fight and the intangibles, they all came into play,” Brown said after the game. “This is a great group, a tough group with a lot of heart and a lot of fight. We don’t back down from challenges and that’s what we need from each other. It’s inspiring just to be in the locker room with these guys.”

It won’t be much easier against the Heat, but if the Celtics can build off this seven-game battle against the Raptors, they should find themselves in the NBA Finals.

Comments
  1. HaroldSBowling says:

    I’m glad she acknowledged the monstrous premise of this otherwise good comedy. A couple breaks up, so they decide to divide up their infant twins — so each girl will never see the other parent, her sister, or any of her other relatives again? Or even know she has a sister? Just as in the original version of this movie, the real villains are clearly both parents……..Read More

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