Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Celtics 95 - Raptors 93: C's officially clinch the seventh seed

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Boston - The Celtics on 'Fan Appreciation' night definitely gave the TD Garden faithful their money's worth in the home regular-season finale on Tuesday. For the second time in nine days, the C's battled the Raptors down to the wire and found a victory on another last second shot. Jae Crowder's right side corner jumper with .8 seconds left, gave the home crowd a 95-93 victory.

Crowder was only 2-of-7 from the floor before hitting the off-balanced fall-away game winner. He finished with just 9 points and 4 rebounds.

"I got to make this one," said Crowder, when asked about the final play that Brad Stevens drew up for the swingman. "I [didn't] care what happened before that, I [had] to make this one. Just focus on the shot and on the next possession and keep going...It [felt] good."

Evan Turner led the way with 14 points, 7 rebounds and 9 assists for the Celtics, who clinched a playoff berth on Monday after a Brooklyn Nets loss.

Avery Bradley also finished with 14 points before leaving the game in the third with a left quad contusion, and did not return. Brandon Bass added 13 points and 9 rebounds, while Tyler Zeller contributed with 12 points and 8 rebounds in the C's fifth-straight win, officially clinching the seventh seed. The Celtics (39-42) will see LeBron and the Cavs come this weekend for a Eastern Conference best-of-seven first-round series.

Kyle Lowry finished with 16 points for the Raptors (48-33), who have the fourth seed all locked up and will face the Washington Wizards in the opening round of the playoffs. Lou Williams also scored 16 points, while Terrence Ross added 12 points and Jonas Valanciunas chipped in with 11 in their second loss to the Celtics in less than a week and a half.

Toronto's biggest lead of the night came in the second quarter when they were up 15 before Boston cut it to 53-46 going into halftime. The Celtics went on a 14-5 run to take a 64-63 lead (their first since the opening quarter), and led 73-70 going in to the final frame.

With 4:30 left in the game, the Raptors regained a 87-82 advantage and the C's tied it up at 89-89 on a Marcus Smart 3-ball from the right wing. Evan Turner hit a go-ahead shot from the right baseline to go up 91-89 with 35.2 seconds remaining, only to have Lowry tie it up moments later.

Both teams were tied six times in the fourth, and on a Turner miss, he grabbed his own rebound and found Zeller open for a layup with 14 seconds on the clock. With the game tied 93-93, Turner's shot was blocked out of bounds with 2.5 seconds left. Crowder caught the inbound pass and nailed what turned out to be the game winner with .8 seconds.

Lowry's last shot attempt was blocked by Turner, giving the Celtics their postseason opponent.

"It's like I told those guys today, this group that's been together just for 28 games has been pretty darn good in those 28 games," said Brad Stevens.

Boston is now 18-10 since the trading deadline, and even though they have met their goal of extending their season, clearly they want more. They could have been happy enough just to clinch and not have to win any more games. The pretty balanced offense and hard work on defense is what is keeping these young C's together. I say bring on Bron Bron, one more time.

The Celtics will head to Milwaukee and hopefully take care of unfinished business against the Bucks (41-40)  in the regular-season finale. Tip-off is at 8:00 EST.

Game Notes:

The C's honored John 'Hondo' Havlicek, who 50-years ago on Wednesday stole the ball in the 1965 Eastern Conference Finals, in one of the biggest plays in sports history. The Hall-of-Famer received a standing ovation at center court after the play was shown on the jumbo-tron after the first quarter. 

Joel Pavón
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