The heart of the champion

The Raptors survive two overtimes in an epic game, full of controversy and tremendous clutch plays. The seventh round will decide a series for history.

The-heart-of-the-champion

Rudy Tomjanovich already said it in a phrase for history: never underestimate the heart of a champion. And not that the Celtics did it, but the heart of the champion they faced was too big to be beaten so easily. And easy, of course, it will not be for either of the two teams, who put up an epic and absolutely incredible battle that had great clutch plays, miraculous recoveries, constant revisions and almost three and a half hours of game with two overtime included. And controversy, a lot of controversy with questionable refereeing decisions and moments in which the balance was tipped, almost always, against some Celtics who were very close to their first Eastern finals in four years but who will have to wait to play the series (yes is that they play it) before some Heat who wait sitting and rub their hands while they see how their future rival, whoever he is, continues to accumulate minutes and fatigue for another tie that promises.

Few thought we would experience such a spectacle after the clinic that the Celtics gave in the fifth round. Also after a first part of dominance (that does not sentence) green and offensive ineffectiveness of some Raptors who did not score or want. They woke up in the third quarter on triples, with two from a Marc Gasol who had failed the previous 11 he had tried in the series and is being a shadow of the man who led the Grizzlies on the track. The increased enthusiasm of the Canadians did not deter some Celtics who stayed in the game and kept pressing, managing to even the tables and taking the night to what seemed its assured destiny: a final heart attack. There where the wrists tremble, a tie was going to be played that Boston could sentence and which Toronto could catch, surviving the unspeakable and managing to force a seventh game in such an unexpected way (if we base ourselves on everything that happened before the triple of Anunoby) as deserved (for the tenacity and resilience shown). The resistance of the Canadians is being praiseworthy, taking to the last breath the series in the year I post Kawhi, in which they have remained as competitive (or more) as before and have shown themselves capable of winning anyone by bad. let it be the adversities. Including the Celtics.

And they did, but not without controversy. Too much, some will think, especially Celtics fans who watched with regret how Tatum did not make a pass that seemed to be directed at a Nick Nurse who had placed himself in the band in a too suspicious way. With Toronto ahead, Theis (18 + 7) tied the game at 98 with 2 minutes left. He did it through a Smart that did everything except put the triple that would force the third overtime (we'll talk about that later) and that ended with a triple-double, the second of his career (23 + 11 + 10). The scoreboard did not move for the rest of regulation time, although it could well have done if the referees had seen (or wanted to see) an ax from VanVleet to a Kemba denied today in front of the basket (5 points with 2 of 11 in shots and 1 of 6 in triples) who put his hands to his head without believing what was happening. The rebound was caught by Anunoby and Smart (always Smart) went for it, forcing a jump between two indicated by one referee while another granted time-out. The latter prevailed despite protests and footage revealed Lowry requested it before the ball reached his teammate. All while Stevens wondered if he could ask for Kemba's foul review. You already know the answer.

Extra time, more extra time and more controversial

The Raptors did not finalize despite having two attempts (in the first they pointed out a non-existent foul to Tatum without being the Celtics in the bonus) and the game was doomed to extra time. The first, with more errors than successes, ended with a tie at 106. But in the second everything imploded again: Theis caught an offensive rebound under the basket and took the free-kick, but the Raptors players, well above the referees throughout the game, they quickly asked for a review. And since the foul had been whistled upstairs, where the defender touches the ball, they obviate that down they give him two sticks and grant a jump between two that Toronto wins, saving themselves from the possibility of remaining four down with three minutes to go. From there, the madness: Powell (23 points) tied from the personal, Theis returned to crush after Smart's pass and Siakam returned to equalize, hitting the suspension and compensating his embarrassing performance in the shot (5 of 19, with 0 of 5 in triples) .

The hostilities did not stop: Smart's triple, Powell's response; mate of Theis, triple of Anunoby. Powell's 2 + 1, very celebrated, gave the Raptors four ahead of forty seconds from the end and Tatum's basket (great game, 29 + 14 + 9 + 2 + 2) answered a Lowry who held on with 5 fouls, played 53 strenuous minutes and he went to 33 + 8 + 6, knowing how to drive his rivals crazy (that finger stuck in Tatum's wristband) and pulling experience and wisdom to avoid getting into the final tangana and taking his teammates. This was after the last dose of controversy, with another triple by Tatum and two free throws by Powell that sentenced a game that Smart tried to tie from the triple. And on defense, 0.5 to go and with a Nurse timeout that unleashed the wrath of a Lowry who didn't understand, Marc Gasol threw Smart. In the repetition you can see the push with both hands, and the point guard, who had a great game without a prize, laughed ironically on the floor and then faced VanVleet while Nurse tried to put peace in the war by being good after spending half game (and eliminatory) protesting too much in contrast to Stevens too stopped in comparison. Virtue is in the middle, some would say. And neither of these two has it.

If we look at the aggregate of the tie, the Celtics have been better. They won the first two games with a certain authority, they had the third in their pocket up to the triple of Anunoby and not in the fourth, the one who played worst, they separated on the scoreboard or disconnected completely. His mental strength is beyond doubt, as is that of his rivals, and his block is still compact (today Brown has once again been the best of theirs with 31 + 16) and they seem to have more arguments to close the games than the Canadians, who can only turn to Lowry to alleviate Siakam's nerves, although they have found in Powell a good microwave and an Ibaka that contributes a lot and very easily from the bench (13 points in 21 minutes for only 15 from Marc). The two best words in sport will take place (game seven) and lamentations or controversies that do not lead anywhere and have never led are worth little. In the end, people remember the winner and if not they tell those Kings who fell in the Western finals in 2002. And although the Celtics have been superior (the Kings were also), they will have to win the seventh to win the series or, in the long run, no one will remember them. The Raptors are still alive. And they are still the champions. And, you know, do not underestimate the heart of a champion.



Photos from as.com
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