Toronto Raptors of Canada sensation, OG Anunoby failed to play the hero on Saturday, as his gritty efforts could not save his side from losing their semi-finals series in USA’s National Basketball Association (NBA) Eastern Conference.
Having popped up with remarkable late three pointers that helped his side win two previous games of the series against Boston Celtics, Anunoby had been expected to lead the surge again for the defending champions, but his efforts fell short this time and his side could not move ahead in the defence of the title they won for the first time in their history last season.
While Anunoby struggled for form, Boston’s duo of Jayson Tatum (29 points and 12 rebounds) and Jaylen Brown (21 points) lived up to the billing in the decisive Game 7 and helped The Celtics advance to the NBA Eastern Conference finals with a 92-87 win over The Raptors.
Marcus Smart added 16 points and Kemba Walker 14 as the Celtics set up a meeting with the Miami Heat in their third conference finals appearance in the last four seasons; while Fred VanVleet had 20 points to lead the Raptors, whose title defence came to an end after coming back from 2-0 and 3-2 deficits in the series. Kyle Lowry had 16 points, and Pascal Siakam scored 13 with 11 rebounds.
Toronto turned the ball over 18 times, six coming in the fourth quarter, with The Raptors up to 89-87 with 1:21 remaining, as Siakam got a breakaway with a chance to tie, but Smart blocked him from behind, and Lowry fouled out on the other end with 35.4 seconds to go.
Celtics rookie, Grant Williams missed both free throw chances, but Tatum got fouled on the rebound and hit one of his two for a 90-87 lead, while VanVleet missed a potential game-tying three with 12 seconds left, and Walker made his free throws at the other end to ice the game.
With Boston up by one entering the fourth, Walker nailed his first three-pointer of the game on the opening possession. Daniel Theis and Tatum added buckets for a 7-0 Celtics run and a 79-71 lead; as The Raptors got within four at 82-78 on a Siakam tip-in with 6:49 to go, but a Walker three-point play helped the Celtics to an 88-78 lead with 4:51 remaining.
The Celtics roared back late in the second, riding an 11-0 spurt capped by a Brown three-pointer to a 44-40 edge with 2:44 left in the half and entering the break up 50-46, as Kyle Lowry, who was Toronto’s best player in the series by a wide margin, finished with 16 points, six rebounds and four assists before fouling out late in the fourth quarter.
Anunoby’s side were down 60-51 in the third before a 17-7 stretch punctuated by a VanVleet three gave them a 68-67 advantage, as Boston led by as much as 12 early in the first, but The Raptors ended the quarter up 27-26 and the holders crumbled out all together, thereby missing Game 1 of the final series that will take place Tuesday.