With a perfect and beautiful high-arcing cross-court pass and a miraculous last-second corner three-pointer, the Toronto Raptors saved their season Thursday night.
Kyle Lowry delivered the pass, OG Anunoby delivered the dagger, and the Raptors beat the Boston Celtics 104-103 as the playoffs continued to wow inside the NBA bubble in Orlando. The incredible final play rescued the reigning-champion Raptors from a 3-0 series deficit and breathed life into a season on the brink.
It was the latest game in the NBA playoffs to go down to the wire, and it was perhaps the most improbable, as Lowry’s dazzling pass was tossed over the outstretched arms of 7-foot-5 defender Tacko Fall and Anunoby’s shot was caught-and-released with 0.5 seconds left.
In a word: Amazing. Just like the playoffs so far.
Here’s what’s happening around the league, including more the Raptors-Celtics Game 3 drama:
• Lowry takes your breath away in last second win for Raptors, according to Steve Simmons of The Toronto Sun:
“The defending NBA champions will have that title belt around their collective waist for a few more days, and maybe longer, with some air to breath and some replays to watch after a tour de force, against-all-odds, how-did-that-happen, come-from-behind, last-second 104-103 victory over the Boston Celtics at The Field House in the NBA bubble in Orlando.
“Lowry was the best Toronto player from the first minute to the last second, barely breathing with a half second to go on another one of those basketball seconds that should live forever.”
• With help from ‘real close friend,’ Kyle Lowry delivered his playoff masterpiece, according to The Athletic:
“‘I played with a lot different pace tonight,’ said Lowry, who scored 31 points on 13-for-23 shooting. ’I got a text from a real close friend of mine and he kinda told me, ‘Stop waiting.’ And that was pretty much the game plan for me tonight, just stop waiting and be aggressive from the jump. He was correct.’
“The entire world is going to assume that friend, whose name Lowry declined to share, was DeMar DeRozan. If that was the case, it was nice to see the longtime Raptors backcourt hook up once more. It was essential, too. With VanVleet struggling to break free amongst the longer arms of the Celtics, and Siakam reduced to shell-of-himself status until late in the third quarter, the Raptors needed this version of Lowry, more than perhaps ever.”
• Lowry’s pass was parabolic, according to NBA.com:
“‘I was just waiting,’ Lowry said. ’Just waiting for the right moment and I seen Jaylen Brown step up a little bit on Marc, and I just had to make a precise pass to a heck of a shooter in OG.’
“Easier said than done, but Lowry launched a two-handed, soccer-style inbounds pass over the arms of Fall. With the ball 20 feet in the air, Brown turned in the middle of the paint, realizing he was the nearest defender to what was going to be a wide-open corner 3 attempt from a guy who was already 4-for-7 from the left corner in the series. Lowry’s parabolic pass landed right in Anunoby’s lap.
“‘You say to me, ‘Why is Kyle taking it out?’” Nurse explained. ’I say, ‘Because he’s got some guts, man.’ You’ve got to make a gutsy play every now and then.’”
• The game — and series-saving — play was inspired by legendary former coach Hubie Brown:
“As he was walking toward the bus following Thursday night’s come-from-behind 104-103 victory over the Celtics, Raptors coach Nick Nurse glowingly talked about the origins of the final play that ended with OG Anunoby’s game-winning 3-pointer.
“He told The Undefeated’s Marc Spears about a set of DVDs from 2008 that featured various basketball coaches talking about different plays. The one he remembered the most featured Hubie Brown. So when his team had 0.5 seconds left to steal a victory, he went to Brown’s play.”
• For the win has multiple video clips of Lowry’s beautiful pass.
“Lillard’s Ultimate Three-Pointer is the only one to end a playoff series, and for that he gets all the bonus points. He too was fading to his left, flashing to the ball and firing a 27-footer in 0.9 seconds to give his Portland Trail Blazers a close-out Game 6 victory against the Houston Rockets. Just massive stones.”
“‘I want to shoot a direct message to them and thank them for motivating me even more to do more on the floor and be better and do whatever I can to help my team in a basketball game,’ Morant said. ’So if anyone knows who that is, let me know.’”
“The splashy, surprising hire of Steve Nash as the Nets’ head coach is sure to galvanize the team’s fan base, with a roster headlined by Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving primed to immediately compete for a championship.
“However, Nash’s hire brought back into focus the ongoing discussion about how few nonwhite coaches are in the N.B.A., a league where about 80 percent of the players are Black. Nash, who has no coaching experience — even as an assistant — is white. …
“As of Thursday, seven of the 30 N.B.A. head coaches were people of color. Five of them are Black. One, James Borrego of the Charlotte Hornets, is Hispanic, and Erik Spoelstra, the coach of the Miami Heat, is of Filipino descent. Four teams have coaching vacancies: Indiana, Philadelphia, Chicago and New Orleans.”
• Nash’s hiring leads to more questions, according to Yahoo Sports:
“At the intersection of relationship, privilege, Black grievances and an ugly history of NBA coaching hires sits … Steve Nash? On Thursday, the Brooklyn Nets made the stunning hire of a Hall of Fame point guard with two MVPs yet zero days on a coaching sideline, seemingly a prerequisite for most coaches — especially Black coaches.”
• How does Nash fit with Durant, Irving and the Brooklyn Nets? A panel of ESPN experts weigh in.
• The Milwaukee Bucks need more than an MVP to win a championship:
“Fairly or not, (Eric) Bledsoe has become the poster child for Milwaukee’s early exits each of the past two postseasons. But it’s not just Bledsoe. As Giannis Antetokounmpo has ascended, his supporting cast has declined when he needed them most, though the reigning MVP isn’t dwelling on that.
“‘We’re all hard on ourselves, but basketball is not what you did in the past or what you’re gonna do in the future, it’s about what you’re doing right now.’”
• Is smaller now better in the NBA? The Wall Street Journal digs into the question:
“For as long as basketball has existed, the sport has rewarded size. What the playoffs have revealed is that shooting and a new kind of size are today’s keys to success. The NBA is no longer a league dominated by the biggest men on earth. Smaller is better.
“The traditional center who plays with his back to the basket is basically dead. There were nine NBA teams that averaged nine or more post-up plays per game as recently as 2016. This year there was one: the Philadelphia 76ers.”
• NBA ratings have increased internationally while being played in the bubble, according to Forbes:
“Outside the United States, league data shows that compared to the 2019-2020 regular season, ratings and interest in the eight seeding games and the first round of the playoffs inside the Orlando bubble have been popular, with games broadcast in 215 different countries and territories in 47 different languages.
“Compared to the average regular season ratings, the viewing audience for the first two weeks of seeding games was up 325% in the Philippines, 130% in Spain, 88% in Mexico, 79% in Lithuania and 29% in Italy, per NBA data. Those numbers were aided by a record number of games airing in primetime internationally. Of the 88 seeding games, 41 games aired in primetime in Latin America and 40 aired in primetime in Europe, the Middle East and Africa on League Pass and various broadcast partners, by far the most ever in a two-week span.”
• USA Today breaks down the NBA’s top 23-and-under players with most potential, headlined by Dallas’ Luka Doncic:
“Doncic will receive MVP votes and will make either first- or second-team All-NBA this season, following 28.8 points, 9.4 rebounds and 8.8 assists per game. And there’s room for growth offensively and defensively. It should be fun watching Doncic improve over the next five, six seasons.”