On the road? Against a good team? On a basket by Marcus Smart? All on the second night of a back-to-back?
Of all the heroes in all the situations in all the places, it would have taken a lot of searching to find a more improbable outcome than Celtics 117, Raptors 116 in overtime Saturday night in Toronto, a huge development in Boston’s attempt to keep its grip on the final playoff spot as the least bad team among the Eastern Conference hopefuls for No. 8.
Smart made six of nine attempts on the night, including the buzzer-beating layup, but after shooting 35.4 percent in February and 32.9 percent in March. His rookie season was ending badly, even as Boston continued to give him big minutes. And then this.
It was harder than it should have been. Smart was open under the basket, on the right side of the lane, thanks to Isaiah Thomas drawing the defense as he blew down the left side, but the dish-off was a little high. Smart grabbed it with his right hand, with no Raptor closer than a couple steps. Then he made an awkward plant to go up. At least the release was clean.
The Raptors led 116-115 on a Lou Williams three-pointer with four seconds left. The Celtics called timeout and advanced the ball to halfcourt. Thomas was near the free throw line at the other end when the referee gave the ball to Evan Turner on the sideline. Advantage: Celtics.
Thomas, fast enough without a head start, had built to lift-off speed by the time he took the pass from Turner about 40 feet from the basket, then went through the Toronto defense. He created the opportunity that Smart finished.
Large. Everything was a challenge except for the distance of the winning shot – the schedule, the location, the opponent. There has to be a special level of gratification. The importance in the standings is obvious. If the Celtics make the playoffs, this will be one of the nights that made it happen.
Eh. Several Celtics charged off the bench to embrace Smart. He got some hugs and smacks on top of his head, but there was no wild party.
The Celtics get marked down only because the win came on a wide-open layup, without a higher degree of difficulty beyond catching the ball. Everything else was big, though, from the situation and the importance to Thomas’ work. Three Horrys.
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — We’ve spent a lot of time chronicling Portland center Robin Lopez and his reign of violence against mascots. This weekend that battle went north of the border, as the Blazers took on the Toronto Raptors. During the game, the Raptors mascot strayed a little too close to a Portland huddle — and for some reason, Atlanta mascot Harry the Hawk was there, as well — and Robin Lopez decided it was time to strike. Sure, the Raptor may have been wearing a Lopez wig, but is that really cause for violence?
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — It’s been a frigid winter the last few months here in the Northeast — snow, sleet, and frigid temperatures. I’m in New York City, and it’s been so rough that I’ve tried my best to stay indoors as much as possible, sitting here blogging in front of the heater.
But apparently there are some places where even being inside doesn’t help. The Philadelphia 76ers play in the Wells Fargo Center, and from the looks of things, it’s cold in that arena.
Last week, the Indiana Pacers had a shootaround in Philly where they were, apparently, freezing…
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — One of the greatest dunk contest performances of all-time was in Oakland in 2000, when Vince Carter unleashed epic dunk after epic dunk. And while dunk contests since then have been up-and-down, this year Minnesota rookie Zach LaVine turned in another dunk contest for the ages. In fact, LaVine has drawn comparisons to Carter, and as this Vine from the NBA shows, there certainly are some similarities…
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — James Johnson plays forward for the Toronto Raptors, but he comes from a family of martial arts experts and has a black belt in a form of karate himself. This means that despite being 6-9, Johnson can do some impressive stuff, such as the time after practice when he jumped into the air and kicked loose several balls stuck in the net. Yesterday, with the Raptors in Memphis, Johnson showed he can still get up, as these videos from his teammates Landry Fields and Terrence Ross show…
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Last night the Toronto Raptors won a game in Denver, Colorado, over the Nuggets, 116-102. And just because the Raptors were on the road, that didn’t keep Raptors fans from coming out and cheering their team on. Because if there’s anything we’ve seen about Raptors fans, they are all-in when it comes to their squad, even if that means showing up in an opposing arena.
Check the video below to see a clip of Raptors guard Lou Williams leaving the floor after the win. As he walks down the tunnel and back into the locker room, he gives a fan a finger point, but then stops and says “You’re on our side, my bad,” and turns around and goes back over the fan to give him a high five. They the north…
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Back in March, the Toronto Raptors revealed a new logo that they said would be part of their upcoming 20th anniversary season in 2015-16. That logo, it was said, was going to be part of a larger re-branding campaign. And today we may have just gotten a peek at the next step in that campaign. A new video posted to YouTube by the Raptors celebrates their current “We The North” slogan, and then ends with a brief look what seems to be a new logo, featuring a ball swiped by a Raptor claw.
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Funny video here from the Toronto Raptors of center Jonas Valanciunas working undercover at a Toronto package shipping company. I mean, about as undercover as you can be with your jersey and photo on display in a huge frame about five feet away from you. Nice touch pretending to have trouble pronouncing his own last name…