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Toronto Raptors defeat Boston Celtics to even their playoff series 2-2

Last Updated Sep 5, 2020 at 9:37 pm EDT

Toronto Raptors' Pascal Siakam (43) dunks the ball during the first half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game against the Boston Celtics Saturday, Sept. 5, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Pascal Siakam had 23 points and 11 rebounds to lift the Toronto Raptors to a 100-93 victory over the Boston Celtics on Saturday that evened up their Eastern Conference semifinal series at two games apiece.

Kyle Lowry added 22 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists, while Serge Ibaka had 18 points and seven boards. Fred VanVleet chipped in with 17 points, and Game 3 hero OG Anunoby had 11 points.

The series is now a best-of three heading into Monday’s Game 5.

Jayson Tatum had 24 points and 10 rebounds, while Kemba Walker had 15 points for the Celtics.

Two days after Anunoby’s jaw-dropping buzzer-beater breathed new life into the Raptors’ post-season hopes, Lowry pushed the pace early. The Raptors survived a horrible second quarter, and found their offensive groove in the third. They had six three-pointers in the quarter to lead by as many as 11 and were up 81-73 with one quarter to play.

Jaylen Brown’s shot from behind the arc sliced the difference to five points with 5:14 to play. But Lowry, coming off his marathon performance of 46 minutes and 29 seconds in Game 3 – the most by a player this season in a non-overtime game – replied with a three-pointer.

The Raptors guard, who led the way with 31 points in Game 3, dove for a loose ball against Tatum with 2:53 to play, taking a knee to the groin for the second consecutive game.

Brown connected on a three, then Smart converted a three-point play and it was a five-point game with 57 seconds left. But that was as close as the Celtics would come, and the Raptors improved to 3-5 against Boston this season.

Nick Nurse, who was recently named the NBA coach of the year, passed Dwane Casey for most playoff victories in franchise history with 22.

The Raptors edged Boston 104-103 to avoid going down 3-0 in the series – a hole no NBA team has ever dug their way out of. Can a heady finish like Thursday’s make it tough to refocus?

Nurse noted that the Raptors at least have the experience after Kawhi Leonard’s buzzer-beater against Philadelphia that sent Toronto into the conference finals.

“I guess we’re gonna find out,” Nurse said before tipoff. “We hit a big shot to beat Philly . . . and had to get on a plane the next day and go to Milwaukee. I was really, really worried that we were going to be really flat. And we played amazing. We were really, really unlucky not to win that first game in Milwaukee.

“So we came off that jubilation and really momentous series clincher pretty good.”

Their bounce-back was pretty good on Saturday as well.

Lowry set the pace with 11 first-quarter points, and the Raptors went up by seven points early. Toronto led 31-27 to start the second.

The Raptors’ offence ground to a halt in the second and the Celtics took their first lead of the game with 2:11 left in the quarter. Toronto shot 3-for-13 in the frame and scored just nine points over a woeful seven-minute stretch that VanVleet ended with a three-pointer with 0.9 seconds on the clock. The teams went into the locker-room at halftime tied at 49-49.

The Celtics routed the Raptors 112-94 in the series opener, then edged Toronto 102-99 in Game 2 making Game 3 a virtual must-win.

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