The Toronto Raptors shouldn’t be here, tied at three games apiece with the Boston Celtics and headed for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals after an epic 125-122 doubles victory extension Wednesday.
But it’s now clearer than ever that the Raptors aren’t at all affected by this Assumed happen.
Let’s step back a bit before we hit on the various examples of defying expectations that Toronto produced in a brutally contested Game 6. Back in the moment Kawhi Leonard, MVP of the Finals and the driving force behind the 2019 Raptors title, stepped out for the Los Angeles Clippers for free agency.
Of course, it was always possible that internal development (which the Raptors got from Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby, among others) and the Championship experience could keep them competitive without their transcendent superstar. But it was never likely. And it was like the longest of the long shots they would produce a better regular season winning percentage without Leonard than with him last year.
They did it anyway.
And if we’re talking odds, what were the odds of Anunoby removing that fateful hat-trick from the left corner at the end of Game 3? This shot came from a Kyle Lowry cross pass over the Tacko Fall human air traffic control tower with half a second remaining.
That the balloon got to Anunoby in the first place was astounding. That he had hit the blow was nothing short of a miracle.
The Rainbow Trey shouldn’t have fallen. Toronto should have lost 3-0. The series should have been over.
Yet it continued.
Even entering Wednesday’s game, the outlook for the Raptors was bleak. Boston was over-35 in the first five games of the series and blew Toronto up in Game 5. The Celtics, unfazed by the Raptors’ varied defensive looks, had had quality shots in every playoff. At the start of Game 6, it was the same story: Boston started the contest by generating an open corner three after another.
Marcus Smart canned three long balls in the corners of the opening frame and missed two more clean looks over the break. Boston found great scoring opportunities early and often.
Gradually, however, and with great effort, Toronto continued to push back – fighting the Celtics and the seemingly inevitable elimination.
Every step of this arduous process seemed unlikely.
Serge Ibaka, who wasn’t even guaranteed to play after a sprained ankle in Game 5, hit a three-point trio in two minutes after Toronto fell 12 points midway through the second quarter. Those buckets enabled a run that reduced the deficit to just four points at halftime.
In the third, Fred VanVleet racked up nine points in 38 seconds, then set up Marc Gasol (who competed in the 0 out of 10 contest since the deepest in the series) for a three to finish a 12-2 run in a little over a minute. , turning a four-point deficit into a six-point advantage.
VanVleet, you will recall, was not written. If there’s anyone more emblematic of Toronto’s lingering disregard of odds, it’s him. Twenty-nine other teams have told him he’s not meant to be here in the NBA at all.
Let’s not forget Kyle Lowry, either. Though he shed a mostly undeserved reputation for his poor playoff performances in the Raptors Championship race, he arrived taller than anyone, producing 33 points, eight rebounds, six assists and countless numbers. of flops, dives and hard. restlessness plays.
Advance to the end of settlement, and the Raps were able to force OT despite failing to score in the 4:24 final of the fourth quarter, and despite an unusually difficult series of whistles.
Kyle Wobry @WorldWideWob
within four seconds: 1) Kemba’s no fault 2) Giving the Raptors time out instead of jumping the ball 3) OG foul 4) Who was not in the act of shooting ? 5) It took 1.3 seconds of delay ???
We’re throwing the theme into the ground now, but Toronto shouldn’t have won a game in which they selected “Norman Powell Isolation” from their menu of choices to complete the first overtime. But he won anyway, largely because Powell, who couldn’t convert the match winner, shot 10 points in double OT.
Ben golliver @BenGolliver
Raptors’ Fred VanVleet over Norman Powell after Game 6 double win over the Celtics: “He saved us. He saved our season. https://t.co/9ShLpYNsVB
FVV isn’t wrong, but he neglected to mention that Toronto has had half a dozen Saviors (himself included) in this series. Powell was only the last.
The last gasping streak of second overtime featured too many unlikely buckets and emotional swings to count. Toronto finally got the game going during this chaotic time, and all it had to do was endure the previous five games and 53 minutes of rock-fighting basketball to get there.
Lowry correctly ended up on the floor by the end of it all. His dagger jumper helped the Raptors win four with 11.7 seconds left. He attempted the shot on Kemba Walker just inside the foul line, but fell back, sliding to the center court logo.
KYLE LOWRY. COLD ICE CREAM 🥶 https://t.co/7t8LGoYWOI
Leave it to Lowry to symbolize the Raptors series: down (literally) but far from outside.
So now we’re heading into Game 7 Friday with almost none of Wednesday’s pre-game ratings changing.
Boston had the advantage in all the series. He continues to get better shots, even when lost, and it could be a bit deeper than the Raptors – it’s not nothing after a competition in which both teams had four starters in over 50 minutes.
The Celtics are expected to win. The Celtics should to win. They are supposed to do it.
But we do know what the Raptors think of the “supposed”.