Basketball

NBA: Toronto Raptors outlast Boston Celtics to stay alive in NBA playoffs

MIAMI (AFP) – Kyle Lowry scored 33 points and Norman Powell added 23 off the bench on Wednesday (Sept 9) as defending champion Toronto bagged a series-levelling 125-122 double overtime victory over Boston in the NBA playoffs.

An emotional thriller that resembled the intensity of a heavyweight boxing matchup saw the Raptors sustain their repeat hopes and pull level 3-3 in the Eastern Conference semi-final with a winner-take-all game seven set for Friday.

The winner advances to an Eastern Conference final showdown against Miami.

“Just winning,” an exhausted Lowry said after playing 53 minutes. “That was two hard teams playing hard. We had to win the game. Win or go home.

“Get it done. Don’t matter who has to do it. Ready for game seven.”

Powell made a steal and fast break layup plus a free throw to lift Toronto ahead 121-117 with 38 seconds remaining.

Jayson Tatum answered with an inside jumper but Lowry hit a fall-away jumper – Toronto’s sixth successful shot in a row – to put Toronto ahead 123-119.

Tatum sank a three-pointer to pull Boston within a point with 6.2 seconds remaining but Powell sank two free throws and Marcus Smart missed a last-chance three-pointer for Boston.

Jaylen Brown scored 31 points and grabbed 16 rebounds to lead Boston while Tatum had 29 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists and Smart managed only his second carer triple double with 23 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.

“It was a hard-played tough game. Could have gone either way,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “Great basketball game. Right now, put some ice on your legs and get ready for Friday.”

The Raptors won their first NBA crown last season but NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Kawhi Leonard left in the off-season for the Los Angeles Clippers.

Fred VanVleet added 21 points for Toronto and German centre Daniel Theis had 18 points for Boston.

A Theis dunk lifted the Celtics level at 98-98 with two minutes remaining in regulation time.

Toronto’s Pascal Siakam and Boston’s Kemba Walker each missed inside shots in the dying seconds and Siakam missed a desperation 3-point heave at the buzzer, setting up overtime.

Walker hit a jumper to give the Celtics a 104-101 lead, but Norman Powell sank a left corner 3-pointer to tie the game, then made two free throws with 92 seconds remaining in overtime to give Toronto a 106-104 edge.

Tatum sank two free throws to tie the game with 18.9 seconds remaining in overtime and Powell missed a final 3-pointer to force double overtime.

Celtics trainers were working with injured playmaker Gordon Hayward, who has re-completed quarantine in the Covid-19 bubble at Disney World in Orlando, Florida, but remains out indefinitely with a right ankle sprain.

In a later game, the Denver Nuggets faced the Los Angeles Clippers in a Western Conference semi-final with the Clippers leading the series 2-1.

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