The defending champions of the NBA have relinquished their crown after a grueling second-round series with the Boston Celtics. It took every minute of a seven-game series but the Boston Celtics defeated the Toronto Raptors, 92-87, in Game 7 to get into the final four.
Jayson Tatum led the way for Boston with 29 points, and Fred VanVleet was Toronto’s leading scorer at 20.
The Celtics will now battle it out for a spot in this year’s final with the Miami Heat as they look set for the Eastern Conference finals. It is a familiar matchup but includes almost none of the faces from their previous playoff duels.
Watch the Game highlights below…
Udonis Haslem is the only player on either roster to take part in the last Eastern Conference finals matchup between these teams. It used to be LeBron James and Paul Pierce, but it’s now Tatum and Jimmy Butler’s time.
Toronto’s season ended exactly as we thought it would, with the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference heading home on a sour note, but have to be happy with the season as a whole.
Many had projected that the Raptors would struggle even to reach the playoffs after losing Kawhi Leonard, but they came close to reaching the Eastern Conference finals.
The Raptors had Kawhi Leonard a year ago. This time around, it would either have to be Pascal Siakam, or closer by committee. Teams without true one-on-one superstars rarely win deep into the playoffs. The Raptors tried to be the exception.
VanVleet and Siakam are very valuable players, but just aren’t the sort of players meant to be the best player on a championship team. The Raptors also never ultimately filled the vacuum left behind by Kawhi’s departure, and that was their downfall.
The Celtics had that kind of guy. The Raptors didn’t.
The Raptors will be back next season, but for now, the Celtics are the highest-seeded Eastern Conference team left in the field.