C's are win away from Conference Finals
The NBA restart has been well underway for over a month now and the Celtics are one of the few teams that looked like that they didn't miss a beat. Everything got started on July 31st with an eight-game regular season to determine the top 8 seeds in each conference for the playoffs. The Celtics went 5-3 in the final eight games of the regular season to clinch the third seed in the Eastern Conference and set themselves up with yet another playoff match-up with the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Sixers ended up finishing with the sixth in the East after stumbling prior to the pause of the season and went .500 in the seeding games to officially finish in the six spot. During the actual regular season, Philly had the upper hand on the Celtics going 3-1 in the four scheduled games the two teams played.
Naturally, Philly fans resorted to that to try to strike fear into the C's and see if they would bend over again and figured that they could run all over the Celtics to advance. Well the Sixers and their fans thought wrong as the series did not go as expected. Even experts thought that not only would this be a long series but thought that the Sixers would eventually come out on top.
For Boston, it didn't matter who thought what. They are a team that plays with confidence, plays together and knows what they need to do ion order to succeed. Philadelphia was without Ben Simmons for the series and that turned out to be costly as the Celtics took full advantage of that. The C's dominated from 3-point range, battling for rebounds and turning turnovers into points. Philly had no answer for the Celtics and the series ended up being a quick one.
Boston eliminated the 76ers in a clean four-game sweep to advance to the East Semi-finals and make Philly question themselves and make some moves.
Now came a tall task in the second round. Trying to take down the defending Champions, the Toronto Raptors. And that is no easy task for any team, in any sport. However, the Celtics have been up to the challenge. so far in this series, but again it has been anything but easy for gang green. The Celtics took an early 2-0 series lead against the Raptors to implement a little bit of a seed of doubt to Toronto. Also doesn't help the Raptors cause when head coach Nick Nurse in consistently barking at the officials to get a call.
The Raptors gained a little of a spark in Game three as they came ready to play and the contest was a back and fourth affair throughout the game. The Celtics took the lead late in the 4th quarter after a Daniel Theis dunk following a beautiful pass from Kemba Walker. That left the clock at 0.5 seconds left in the game, It was enough time for Raptors Forward OG Anunoby to fire off a buzzer-beating three pointer to get back into the series at 2-1. Toronto took Game 4 as they kept Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker all in check. Walker only took a whopping nine shots for the entire game.
The Celtics showed a lot of spine and resiliency in Game 5 as they dominated the Raptors from the beginning of the game all they way through, to earn a Game 5 win 111-89 and go up 3-2 in the series with a chance to end Toronto's season and title defense tomorrow night. If the Celtics win Game 6, the Celtics would advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the third time in the last four seasons.
If the Celtics eliminate the Raptors tomorrow night, it would be the first time since 2015 that a defending champion did not reach their respected Conference Final series.
Depending on what happens with the Miami Heat versus Milwaukee Bucks series, the Celtics will face either team. The Heat currently hold a 3-1 series lead with another chance to close out the Bucks tonight. If the Heat eliminate the Bucks within the next five days (assuming the series goes seven) and the Celtics take care of the Raptors, the C's will have "home court advantage" in the Conference Finals. But the Heat have to do their part however.
Game 6 between the Celtics and Raptors in tomorrow night with tip-off just after 6:30. You can watch the game on ESPN and listen to the local call of the game; the radio home of the Boston Celtics: 98.5 The Sports Hub.