BOSTON bagged the second Eastern Conference Finals slot yesterday, beating Toronto 92-87 in a Game 7 thriller where all the drama was packed in the last 34.9 seconds.
After Kyle Lowry sank two free throws to put Toronto to within 87-89, Lowry would foul out against Grant Williams.
Toronto got a reprieve somewhat as Williams, a rookie, missed his charities.
But before that, Norm Powell went coast-to-coast in an ill-advised assault, his lay-up thoroughly blocked by Marcus Smart, Boston’s contribution to the NBA’s best defensive team.
Jason Tatum got fouled in the ensuing Celtics offensive, settling for a split for Boston’s fragile 90-87 lead with 34.9 seconds left.
But Fred VanVleet, extra hot from afar earlier, flung an airball from three-point land, his aim a bit blocked by the outstretched arms of Williams.
Kemba Walker got fouled and he made his two free throws, giving Boston a comfortable 92-87 edge with only 7.9 seconds remaining.
Toronto Coach Nick Nurse called time out but to no avail, his boys fumbling away slim chances as he saw his career playoff record drop to 23-12—still the league’s best.
Boston battles next Miami for the East championship beginning Wednesday, Sept. 16.
Nurse failed to give his team back-to-back crowns as the Raptors sorely missed Kawhi Leonard, their chief star last year who moved to the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Clippers failed to close out their series with the Denver Nuggets yesterday, but Los Angeles still leads 3-2 in the Western playoffs.
The Los Angeles Lakers will try to finish off the Houston Rockets in a Sunday West offering. The Lakers logged a 110-100 win on Friday for a 3-1 series lead behind Anthony Davis’ 29 points and 12 rebounds and LeBron James’ 16 points and 12 rebounds.
But in the U.S. Open tennis, Dominic Thiem (No. 2) swept Daniil Medvedev (No. 3) 6-2, 7-6, 7-6 to arrange a finals showdown against Germany’s Alexander Zverev (No. 5) for the men’s crown on Monday.
I’d pick Thiem over Zverev, simply because the green-eyed Austrian owns today’s most powerful forehand.
Kulas’ Pinot red wine is up for grabs.