Celtics wing Jaylen Brown didn’t mince his words.
“That was just a [expletive] disgrace at the end of the game,” Brown said Thursday night after his team lost Game 3 of its second-round playoff series against the Toronto Raptors. “That was just terrible. No way we should have lost that game.”
With the score tied at 101 in the final seconds of the fourth quarter, Celtics point guard Kemba Walker dodged a double team on the perimeter to dish a perfect bounce pass to a wide-open Daniel Theis. The Raptors had a foul to give, but Theis, uncontested, went up for a two-handed jam and gave the Celtics a two-point lead with just 0.5 seconds left on the clock.
The Raptors then called a timeout — their last — to draw up a final play. Walker subbed out in favor of 7-foot-5 — 7-foot-6, if you ask him — center Tacko Fall. That length was not enough to impede Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry from sailing an inbound pass right into the hands of OG Anunoby, who fired off a three-pointer at the buzzer to win the game.
“We just needed one stop to win the [expletive] game and we ended up losing,” Brown said.
Anunoby’s buzzer-beater not only gave his team the 104-103 victory, but it also saved the Raptors from falling behind 3-0 in the series. No team in NBA history has overcome that deficit.
ANUNOBY FOR THE WIN WITH .5 SECONDS LEFT 🔥🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/M6IdnSv5yd
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 4, 2020
While he acknowledged there was “no question” the Celtics could have defended Toronto’s final play better, coach Brad Stevens credited Lowry for executing such a difficult pass and Anunoby for sinking the shot, given the circumstances.
“The ability to make that shot under a little bit of duress with 0.5 seconds remaining and Lowry’s ability to deliver that pass over Tacko from that distance, it’s not an easy thing to do,” Stevens said.
Brown, who ended up contesting Anunoby’s shot, ultimately took responsibility.
“Just me being four years in, I got to be better,” he said. “Can’t give up a three at the end of the game. They made a remarkable shot, still. But it’s a [expletive] disgrace. It’s terrible. There’s no excuse for it at all. It was ridiculous.”
So, what exactly went wrong?
Well, Brown is not necessarily the one to blame.
Jayson Tatum initially started guarding Anunoby in the corner closest to Boston’s bench. As Anunoby started cutting along the baseline, however, Marcus Smart motioned for Tatum to stay in that corner so that he could defend Fred Van Vleet. (Lowry revealed after the game that the initial play was designed for Van Vleet.) Meanwhile, Anunoby, unaccounted for, managed to sneak across the baseline to the opposite corner. By the time Lowry’s pass was in the air, Brown, the closest defender, was caught up covering Marc Gasol in the paint.
Once Brown realized where the ball was headed, he sprinted to Anunoby and jumped with his hand up to offer his best contest, but it was too late.
Anunoby sunk the shot, prompting Toronto’s bench to rush the court.
After the defensive breakdown, multiple Celtics expressed the need for better communication.
“It’s not on one person,” Tatum said. “All five guys got to be on the same page.”
Added Brown: “At the end of the day, we just got to be better as a unit.”
The loss snaps Boston’s seven-game win streak.
With Game 4 scheduled for Saturday at 6:30 p.m., the Celtics already seemed ready to turn the page.
“It’s the NBA playoffs,” Brown said. “Either you let them gain momentum or you come back ready to play next game.”