The game plan from Boston coach Brad Stevens was simple: Start things off with an increased effort on defense to set an immediate tone.
The Celtics did exactly as he asked — and put the reigning NBA champions on the ropes.
Jaylen Brown scored 27 points and the Celtics never trailed, rolling past the Toronto Raptors 111-89 in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series on Monday night.
Boston now leads the series 3-2 and can earn a trip to the East finals on Wednesday.
“We were playing with great purpose,” Stevens said. “You could feel that from the get-go.”
Kemba Walker scored 21 for the Celtics, whose starters outscored Toronto’s starters by a whopping 93-45. Jayson Tatum scored 18.
“The job’s not finished yet,” Brown said. “We’ve still got a lot of work that needs to be done.”
“I know it sounds crazy .. but I thought our offense was awesome for like the first eight minutes,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “I thought it was awesome. I don’t think those shots could have been more open.”
They were down 18-5 after all that, and it got worse in a hurry.
Another big scoring run — this time, 23-7 — in the second quarter pushed Boston’s lead from 37-25 to 60-32 late in the half. The Raptors had gone 5-for-6 from the field just before that spurt began and seemed to be getting in a rhythm; they missed 11 of their next 13 shots and things got out of hand.
“Tonight our defense really set up our offense,” Walker said. “It worked out for us.”
Toronto outscored Boston 28-25 in the third and it already didn’t matter; the Celtics’ lead was 87-63 going into the fourth.
“We just didn’t play crisp enough,” Lowry said. “We didn’t look at the rim early enough in the shot clock to attack. But it happens. Now we got to watch the film and make adjustments and play for our lives.”
The sixth game of the series between Celtics and Raptors will be played on 10th September