LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The game plan from Boston coach Brad Stevens was simple: Start things off with an increased effort on defence to set an immediate tone.
The Celtics did exactly as he asked — and put the reigning NBA champions on the ropes.
Jaylen Brown scored 27 points and the Celtics never trailed, rolling past the Toronto Raptors 111-89 in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series Monday evening.
Boston now leads the series 3-2 and can earn a trip to the East finals on Wednesday.
Kemba Walker scored 21 for the Celtics, whose starters outscored Toronto’s starters by a whopping 93-45. Jayson Tatum scored 18, Daniel Theis and Brad Wanamaker each had 15 and Marcus Smart added 12 for Boston.
Fred VanVleet scored 18 for Toronto, which trailed by as many as 30. Norman Powell scored 16 for the Raptors, while Pascal Siakam and Kyle Lowry managed 10 points apiece. Matt Thomas also had 10 for Toronto.
Here’s what Toronto got out of its first 18 possessions: five points on 2-for-15 shooting, a stretch that included everything from missed open layups to airballed contested jumpers, along with five turnovers in the game’s first 8:53.
They were down 18-5 after all that, and it got worse in a hurry.
Another big scoring run — this time, 23-7 — in the second quarter pushed Boston’s lead from 37-25 to 60-32 late in the half. The Raptors had gone 5-for-6 from the field just before that spurt began and seemed to be getting in a rhythm; they missed 11 of their next 13 shots and things got out of hand.
Toronto outscored Boston 28-25 in the third and it already didn’t matter; the Celtics’ lead was 87-63 going into the fourth.