It may have only been game 15 of the season for the Celtics, but it sure didn’t feel that way Friday night against the Raptors. Friday was an abnormally important game. It was a playoff atmosphere and both teams seemed to know it before the ball was even tipped.
Going into the contest it was obvious after a loss in Toronto earlier this season that this had the potential to be a statement game for the Celts. They were catching them coming off a 2-game losing streak and were finally home after a long road trip.
Even with all of that in mind, there was no predicting the intensity that Friday night would be. In the end, the Kyrie and the Celtics pulled out an overtime win.
There’s many games and moments throughout the season that fans deem to be more important. In many cases, it’s only another day at the office for the players. Not Friday, though. Friday everyone came for a knock down, drag out dog fight. I’m about to run through a wall just thinking about how quickly the Celts came out and immediately asserted their physicality. The game plan was to beat Toronto up and hit the open shots.
As you may of noticed in Chris Forsberg’s tweet, this was more than just a neighborhood brawl when it was all said and done. Kyrie went off, yet again, and continued his dominance of late.
When it was all said and done he had 43 points, 23 of which came in the fourth quarter and OT. It was cold-blooded against the conference leading Raptors.
Kyrie has done a lot of talking about being settled in Boston, being happy here and wanting to lead this team. To start the season, that was far from the case. He didn’t seem the same, whether it was coming back from an injury or the new hair-do, something wasn’t working.
Nevertheless, those days are over. Kyrie is now doing what he’s said he wanted to do. Being “The Guy” in crunch time, or really whenever they need a basket, is all he’s ever wanted out of the transition to Boston. That was taken from him when he went down with the knee injury that held him out of the playoffs last season. Now it’s his time to dominate and that’s exactly what he’s been doing.
The other two Celtics standouts Friday were Tatum and Hayward. The eyeball test wouldn’t have told you Tatum had a stellar night, but he had some big time plays down the stretch and ended with 21 points.
As for Hayward, the eye test, that may have plagued Tatum this game due to his poor first half, did wonders for Hayward. All night it was obvious this was the best game he’s played all season. He finished 15/5/5 and played phenomenal defense all game.
It was almost like his body had an epiphany and said “Oh shit, I’m an all-star” and put it all together in Boston Friday.
The best part about this win was how much this game mattered to the Celtics. This wasn’t the Suns game last week where the Celtics won in overtime. I thought it was, but the way the Celtics treated tonight it is clear that the Phoenix game meant dick to them. This wasn’t a team they should’ve beat then squeaked out a win. The Celtics will see plenty more of Toronto. Friday, they set a standard for themselves in big games going forward.
Now all they need to do is that this game, and build from there. No more steps back, no more waiting to build chemistry. This game was a foundation for this team. Now that they’ve done it, and can watch it back for reference, expectations are much higher going forward.
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