The Celtics were a mere 0.5 seconds away from taking a complete stranglehold on the Eastern Conference semifinal series, but OG Anunoby ended any notion of that by draining a 3-pointer at the buzzer to lift the Raptors to a thrilling 104-103 victory.
Now comes a question the Celtics will have to answer time and time again leading up to tip-off of Game 4 Saturday: How will the respond?
It certainly won’t be an easy task to shed the memory of the painful loss and a missed opportunity, but the Celtics will need to turn the page quickly if they still want to have control over the series.
“They’re a good team. They’re the defending champs. We knew they weren’t going to go down without a fight,” Jaylen Brown said. “We got to be ready to throw the next punch. That’s it. They responded. They made a remarkable play at the end of the game. So the fight continues. Get ready for Game 4.”
The Celtics brought the fight in Game 3 for stretches and there were positives to take away despite the gut-wrenching ending.
Kemba Walker continued to thrive in the postseason spotlight, pouring in a team-high 29 points and three assists, including a terrific feed to Daniel Theis in the closing seconds that looked like it would send Boston to a win.
Jaylen Brown, aside for his defensive lapse on the game’s final play, played stellar interior defense on Toronto’s Pascal Siakam as Brown blocked four shots and grabbed 12 rebounds to go along with 19 points. The Celtics bench also contributed, a good sign moving forward as they will need it to continue to produce.
“I thought our guys really competed, really fought,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “Both teams left it all out there in a great game. It hurts and it stings to lose, but we’ll just get back to it and get ready for Saturday.”
That seems to be the team mindset with a pivotal Game 4 up next. For Jayson Tatum, who struggled offensively by shooting 5-of-18 and finished with 15 points, there’s no point in dwelling on Anunoby’s shot that led to a stunning defeat.
That play is already in the past and the only thing the Celtics have control over is how the future of this series plays out.
“For me it’s as simple as can’t change what happened. It happened. Got to move on,” Tatum said. “So, that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to move on and try to get the next one.”