LAKE BUENA VISA, Fla. — Jayson Tatum scored 34 points while Marcus Smart had 16 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter, and the Boston Celtics edged the Toronto Raptors 102-99 on Tuesday in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series.
OG Anunoby scored a post-season career-high 20 points for the Raptors, who trail Boston 2-0 in their best-of-seven set.
Game 3 is on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. EST.
Fred VanVleet added 19 points for the defending NBA champions, who went 11-0 against other opponents in the NBA’s restart at Walt Disney World but have now lost three in a row to Boston and are 1-5 against the Celtics this season. Serge Ibaka and Pascal Siakam had 17 points apiece, while Kyle Lowry finished with 16.
The Celtics led wire to wire to clobber Toronto 112-94 in Game 1, but the Raptors played with much greater energy Tuesday and Marc Gasol’s basket to put Toronto up just 47 seconds in marked the Raptors’ first lead against Boston in nearly 97 minutes over their two previous games.
The lead changed hands 16 times before the Raptors finally put some separation on Boston in the third quarter, and then with 2:46 left of the frame, coach Nick Nurse won a big challenge on a call after Smart sideswiped Siakam. Siakam’s free throw after the call reversal capped an 11-0 Raptors run and put them up by 12.
Toronto took a 78-70 lead into the fourth, but the Raptors’ momentum ground to a halt.
Smart lit it up with five consecutive three-pointers to start the quarter, and his fifth long bomb, barely four minutes into the period, put Boston up by a point. A basket by Robert Williams capped a 9-0 Celtics run that stretched the difference to eight.
Kemba Walker’s three-pointer with 2:24 to play had Boston up by six points. Lowry drew a foul and his two free throws with 1:01 to play sliced the difference to one, but Walker replied with a step-back jumper and it was a three-point game.
Siakam stepped out of bounds with 31.5 seconds left for a turnover, then VanVleet missed on a three-pointer at the buzzer to seal Boston’s victory.
Boston hit seven three-pointers in the fourth quarter, while the Raptors went just 1-for-11 from distance over the final 12 minutes.
The game was the first with players’ families in attendance. Video of VanVleet greeting his two kids — daughter Sanaa, who’s two, and Fred Jr., who was born during last year’s conference finals — went viral on Monday. The guard hadn’t seen them since July 21.
The camera caught Sanaa courtside during a timeout on Tuesday, waving and saying “I love you daddy.” VanVleet hit a three-pointer on Toronto’s next possession.
Some of the players opted not to have family join them in the bubble. Nurse, who doesn’t have his young family with him in the bubble, believes the arrival loved ones would help the players who do have family.
“When you’ve got small children, you know how much they can change when you haven’t seen them for a five-day road trip, let alone a two-week road trip, let alone a couple months sabbatical here that we’re on,” Nurse said. “So I think that there was a lot of. . . amazement (in Monday’s family reunions).”
It wasn’t quite enough to push Toronto past the Celtics though in Game 2.
VanVleet led the way with nine points in the first quarter, and his driving hook shot had the Raptors up by eight midway through the frame. The quarter ended in a 28-28 tie.
The teams matched each other virtually shot for shot through the second quarter until a driving dunk from Williams had the Celtics up by five late in the half. Siakam connected on a desperation three-pointer at the buzzer and the Raptors trailed 50-48 at halftime.