Game 6 of the Celtics’ series against the Raptors was the best game yet, and it was quite possibly the best game of the NBA Playoffs.
Down 3-2 in the series, the defending champions kept their season alive by holding off the Celtics in double overtime, 125-122, to force Game 7.
While the Celtics were on the losing side of an instant classic, they were able to recognize how competitive the game was.
“It clearly was a hard played, tough game that could’ve gone either way,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens told reporters after the game.
Jaylen Brown, who scored 31 points on a career-high 30 attempts, looked at the brighter side of the loss and thinks that he and his teammates can learn from Game 6.
“Definitely a great teaching moment for this group,” Brown said. “We had a lot of opportunities down the stretch. We didn’t take care of the ball as well as we needed to. That’s fine.
“It’s the NBA Playoffs,” Brown added.” We felt like some calls, some things got away from us. But let’s come out ready to play. It doesn’t get much better than this.”
One of those moments that got away from the Celtics came at the end of regulation. With the game tied, Kemba Walker drove to the rim with just seconds left to attempt a game-winning layup. His shot missed and he appeared to be hit by OG Anunoby on the arm while going up, but there was no foul call and the ball went to Toronto for the final seconds of regulation.
Walker seemed displeased with the lack of a call during the moment.
“I just missed a layup, I guess,” Walker said after the game, refusing to criticize the officials and get fined later.
The missed shot at the end of regulation was one of Walker’s nine missed shots in Game 6. He finished the night with five points on 2-for-11 shooting.
Stevens didn’t blame his star point guard for the poor showing. Instead, he credited the Raptors’ box-and-1 defense that allowed Walker to only shoot three times in the first half.
“In the first half, that’s really not fair to Kemba because they’re in a box-and-1, playing on top of him and we’re getting great shots against it throughout the entire first quarter,” Stevens said. “So in that time, his job is to either be a spacer or a cutter or a screener and watch everybody else score. When they get out of it, he gets better opportunities himself. So that’s not on Kemba and anything about the three attempts in the first half or anything.
“They took him away, that’s a great sign of respect.”
Walker tipped his cap to Toronto for the defense in the first half, but was hard on himself for shooting poorly for the remainder of the game.
“The box-and-1 denied me the whole first half,” Walker said. “Then the second half, I really just couldn’t find a rhythm. I had a few good looks but it just wasn’t enough. It just wasn’t enough to help my teammates out tonight. Just a bad offensive night. Terrible offensive night.”
After the game ended, there was a moment where players on both teams were jawing at each other. Walker said he didn’t know what happened while Brown said both teams should keep things under control.
“A lot of emotions, things like that swirling, etc,” Brown said. “I ain’t really going to speak on it too much. It’s a lot of emotions. It’s an intense series so things like that tend to happen. A lot of testosterone, etc. Ain’t nothing to worry about. We’ve got to be ready to fight.
“That’s a respectable organization. I expect them to act accordingly, etc. Things seem to get out of hand at times, from coaching staffs, etc. Let’s keep it under control. Let’s keep playing basketball. Let’s get ready to fight.”
Even though the Celtics certainly squandered the opportunity to end the series Wednesday night, they seem ready for the challenge that awaits in Game 7.
“Why wouldn’t I be?” Walker said when asked if he was confident going into Game 7. “We’ve got great players. We’re really competitive. That was an awful game right there. We could’ve gave up, but we didn’t though. We fought hard. We made plays the whole game. It took two overtimes. So yeah, I’m confident. We’ve got a good group of guys. We love playing basketball with each other. We love making each other better. I know we’ll respond.”
“You’ve got to embrace it. You’ve got to embrace the challenge,” Brown added. “This is what adversity is about. This is what basketball is about. This is what life is about. You get put into tough situations. You can’t complain. Some days don’t go your way. You stand up and you fight tomorrow. So I’m looking forward to getting back with our guys, circling it back and going to shootaround, film and everything. It’s all a part of embracing the challenge.”