The double-overtime thriller between the Toronto Raptors and the Boston Celtics was an instant classic, and it came right down to the wire. Both teams made incredible plays throughout the fourth quarter and in the two overtime periods, but it was the Raptors who nailed all the tiny details to secure the win and force a decisive Game 7.
Here are five defining plays the Raptors made to win Game 6.
OG’s stunt, better than Nurse’s stunt
There was a considerable amount of griping, especially from Boston media, over Nick Nurse supposedly walking onto the floor and baiting Jayson Tatum into a vital turnover with less than a minute left in regulation. The claim was that the 53-year-old Nurse — dressed in a grey polo, slacks, and glasses — was somehow able to present himself as if he were a Celtics player, which then baited Tatum into throwing it out of bounds. Instead, the intent was pretty clear: Nurse was trying to get a better angle on the play to call out defensive assignments, especially since he didn’t have any of his centres on the floor calling out coverages.
Didn't realize until after the game the reason Tatum passed to Nurse wasn't just because Nurse was standing out of the coach box, but he was literally standing in bounds in the corner.— Jared Weiss (@JaredWeissNBA) September 10, 2020
"That was my fault. Can’t blame Nick Nurse. He’s not playing. It was my fault," Tatum said. pic.twitter.com/yHbyqn0OXw
However, what this claim misses is the fact the real stunt pulled here was by OG Anuonby. Watch closely how the play unfolds. Tatum got a step on Pascal Siakam driving to his right and could have potentially got to the rim, but Anunoby made him hesitate by stunting over on the play away from the corner shooter, Daniel Theis, for a brief second before shifting back to close out. That extra bit of movement was all it took for Tatum to change his mind about attacking the rim as he kicked it out to Theis. How he mistook Nurse for a Celtic on that play is a mystery, with the truth likely being that Tatum was just caught by surprise and made an awful pass.
for all the griping on the nurse play, it's actually OG who pulls off the stunt. watch him briefly leave theis in the corner, coax Tatum into the pass instead of driving all the way in, before getting back to the corner.— William Lou (@william_lou) September 10, 2020
(hidden nurse, crouching OG) pic.twitter.com/uTye4ZXpVq
Fred VanVleet and Kyle Lowry turn the tide
The Celtics had a million chances to close out the champions. They should have ran away with the series in Game 3, but they made a mistake with 0.5 seconds left. They should have held their 12-point lead in the first half of Game 6, but gave that up. They should have overrun the Raptors with their barrage of 3s in the fourth, but let up. And even in double overtime, they held a four-point lead and still couldn’t finish.
The big momentum shift came on a drive from the Celtics. Jaylen Brown had a mismatch in Fred VanVleet and wanted to take the shorter defender to the rim in transition. That should have been a layup to put the Celtics up six, but VanVleet had the strength to absorb the contact from Brown, stay connected, and use his quick hands to slap the ball cleanly out of Brown’s hands to force the turnover.
huge momentum play in 2OT: Brown drives in with a mismatch trying to put the Celtics up 6, but VanVleet strips him, then Lowry punches in the layup. Four point swing. pic.twitter.com/YIWnNEdVEJ— William Lou (@william_lou) September 10, 2020
Going the other way, the Raptors caught the Celtics asleep in transition and Kyle Lowry capitalized by punching through the gap, getting downhill around Brown and all the way to the rim before the Celtics could send help on the play. That four-point swing was the Raptors’ first basket of double overtime, and it’s one of countless examples of how smart Toronto’s undersized backcourt is. They lack height, but make up for it in every other aspect.
Marcus Smart nailed a tough 3 to give Boston a three-point lead with 97 seconds left in the game, capping off a brilliant performance in which he logged a quadruple-double with flops. That looked to be the dagger, but the Raptors still had a trick up their sleeve and it came from perhaps the unlikeliest of sources.
Despite what his heroics in Game 3 might suggest, Anunoby is Toronto’s fourth option in the starting five. With Norman Powell on the floor instead of a centre, Anunoby slides down even further to fifth. Except it was Anunoby who delivered two crucial plays to put the Raptors back on top. Anunoby combined with Lowry on two pick-and-roll sequences, and both times it resulted in 3s.
On the first play, Lowry rejected the screen from Anunoby (who had picked up his fifth foul on a moving screen against Smart) and drew two defenders to him. Lowry slipped the pass out to Anunoby, who still had quite a lot to do. First, he used a pump fake to shed Kemba Walker before driving into the lane and using a spin move to evade Theis, while still having the presence of mind to find Powell on the kickout for 3. It was a brilliant piece of playmaking from the third-year player, showing both his court awareness and his quietly lethal spin move. Notice that he could have whipped it out to Powell after the fakeout on Walker, but instead he gets deeper in the lane, Powell comes up from the wing to the top, and that makes it a longer closeout for Tatum.
OG Anunoby: The playmaker that the Celtics never expect pic.twitter.com/6YfBZn2p1h— William Lou (@william_lou) September 10, 2020
The next play down, Lowry and Anunoby ran the same action. Again, Lowry rejected the screen and found Anunoby after drawing the double team. This time, Walker didn’t help because Powell had just made a 3, so Anunoby found himself open and confidently fired the 3 to put the Raptors ahead.
Norman Powell’s rotation that saved the game
Down one with under a minute left, the Celtics had another prime opportunity to take the game. Brown picked up the offensive rebound in a scramble situation and had the presence of mind to drive it along the baseline before kicking it out to Smart open at the top of the floor. At that point the Raptors were scrambling, and Boston had two good looks to go ahead.
Brown’s kickout found Smart, who was Powell’s man, except VanVleet left Tatum to rotate over. Smart, showing great awareness of his limitations, swung it to Tatum who was open at the top, but Lowry frantically ran out and chased him off the line. At that point Powell needed to read the play on the fly, abandon his initial coverage and change his route so that he met Tatum in the paint to help for Lowry. It was a brilliant read that caught Tatum off guard as Powell jarred the ball loose and went the other way for the and-one layup over Smart.
Norm making the read: Norm starts that play helping on the baseline against Brown's drive, but reads the sequence, sees VanVleet and Lowry helping, changes his route and beats Tatum to the spot for the steal + 3 point play pic.twitter.com/kRa3NyyZN6— William Lou (@william_lou) September 10, 2020
Powell was brilliant on the whole, as that was his second steal in the overtime periods against Tatum. He finished with 15 points in overtime alone, hitting two 3s, the three-point play, and all seven of his free throws to ice the win.
Lowry over Walker
There was nothing particularly complicated about the final shot of the night for the Raptors. With Walker on him, Lowry called for a clearout and his teammates all moved to the left so he could have the entire right side of the floor to himself against Walker, before rising up and hitting the shot.
Lowry's dagger at the end: Lowry hit a similar shot over Walker in the first OT period, so he knew he could get that shot off over him. The key was clearing out the entire right side so the Celtics couldn't help. pic.twitter.com/ACmYCwy29Y— William Lou (@william_lou) September 10, 2020
The context here is that Lowry had sized up Walker on a similar shot in the first overtime period. Again, it was a similar play where Lowry was isolated in the post-up against Walker, but that shot gave him the confidence in knowing that he could shoot over the top of Walker with no issue. So long as the Celtics didn’t help, which was ensured on the game-winner by clearing out the right side of the floor, Lowry was going to be able to shoot over the top and he did just that.
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