NBA: Celtics push Raptors to brink

The Boston Celtics blew out the Toronto Raptors 111-89 on Monday, pushing the reigning NBA champions to the brink of elimination in the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

The Celtics, who had lost two straight as the Raptors clawed their way back into the best-of-seven series, took a 3-2 lead and can clinch a place in the conference finals with a win on Wednesday.

They dominated defensively to hold the Raptors to 20% shooting in the first quarter, emerging from the opening period with a 25-11 lead.

The Raptors never recovered from the early body blow.

The Celtics’ 37 points in the second quarter were two more than the Raptors managed in all of the first half.

They trailed 62-35 at halftime, and despite a noticeable uptick of energy to start the third, there was too much ground to make up.

“The job isn’t done,” said Jaylen Brown, who led all scorers with 27 points. He grabbed six rebounds and made three of Boston’s five steals. “We’ve got to come out and play with the same intensity.”

Kemba Walker added 21 points, four rebounds and seven assists, Jayson Tatum delivered 18 points and 10 rebounds, Daniel Theis and reserve Brad Wanamaker scored 15 apiece and Marcus Smart Chipped in 12 for the Celtics.

Boston coach Brad Stevens kept his starters in for much of the fourth quarter, comfortably keeping the lead in double digits.

Fred VanVleet led the Raptors with 18 points, Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam scored 10 apiece.

OG Anunoby, who drained the buzzer-beating three-pointer that gave the Raptors their first win of the series in game three, scored seven points — all in the first quarter.

“Our offense, we didn’t make shots, we weren’t aggressive enough,” Lowry said. “They were very comfortable from the jump. We weren’t as assertive as we should have been.”

Lowry brushed off suggestions that the Raptors were feeling the effects of the every-other-day schedule in the NBA’s quarantine bubble in Orlando, Florida.

“Nope,” he said when asked if fatigue played a part. “We just didn’t play well enough.” (AFP)