All eyes were on the Toronto Raptors after winning their first NBA championship in 2018-19.

Could the defending champions do it again, even without superstar Kawhi Leonard following his switch to the Los Angeles Clippers?

The Raptors were tipped to slide in 2019-20, but with Nick Nurse leading the way, Toronto (53-19) defied the odds as they finished second behind the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference.

Still boasting championship winners Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka and benefiting from the emergence of Norman Powell, OG Anunoby and Chris Boucher, the Raptors reached the Conference semi-finals before losing to the Boston Celtics in seven games inside the Orlando bubble amid the coronavirus pandemic.

With the season done and dusted, there are now doubts over whether VanVleet, Gasol and Ibaka will return as they enter free agency.

Nurse experienced similar at the end of 2018-19 after Leonard and Danny Green departed for the Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers respectively via free agency.

As the Raptors look ahead to 2020-21, we review the team's 2019-20 season using Stats Perform data.


Nurse no one-season wonder

The 53-year-old has not missed a beat since his appointment ahead of the 2018-19 campaign, delivering a maiden NBA title in his first season in Toronto.

Nurse has overseen 134 victories, including playoff wins, for an overall 134-55 record in two seasons as Raptors head coach.

Only Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr (171 from 2014 to 2016), former Chicago Bulls coach Phil Jackson (141 between 1989 and 1991) and ex-Phoenix Suns coach Paul Westphal (137 in 1992 to 1994) managed more victories from their opening two campaigns in the league.

Nurse's work has not gone unnoticed. The Canada head coach was named the 2020 NBA Coach of the Year, while he signed a "multi-year" contract extension with the Raptors last month.


Siakam and VanVleet emerge

Two of Toronto's biggest stars have experienced significant improvements.

Both forward Siakam and guard VanVleet were both averaging under 5.0 points per game as recently as 2016-17. Now, Siakam is averaging 22.9 points per game (+18.7), while VanVleet's scoring average is up to 17.6 (+14.7).

No players in the NBA have had a bigger scoring increase since then, with New Orleans Pelicans star Brandon Ingram (23.8ppg from 9.4ppg – +14.5), Jaylen Brown of the Boston Celtics (20.3ppg from 6.6ppg – +13.7) and Brooklyn Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie (20.6ppg from 7.3ppg – +13.3) coming closest.


Raptors lack bite and roar

For all of their success, the Raptors still do not really have a dominant scorer or rebounder, especially since Leonard's exit.

In this season's playoffs, Toronto's leading scorer was VanVleet at 19.6 points per game, and their leading rebounder was veteran Ibaka at 7.7 rebounds per game.

Since rebounds were first tracked in 1950-51, there has never been a team to win the NBA championship while having no players average 20.0-plus points per game and no players average 8.0-plus rebounds per game in the postseason.

When it comes to Siakam, while he has grown, there are still teething issues, especially with his three-point shooting.

Taking more attempts from beyond the arc, Siakam was decent in the regular season but the 26-year-old did not shoot the three well in the playoffs. His three-point percentage (18.9 per cent) in the postseason was the second worst of all time (minimum 50 attempts), only behind Lindsey Hunter (15.1) in 2000-01.

If you look at the three-point percentages for Raptors players in the 2020 postseason, you can see that the guys who shot the ball the most had some of the lowest percentages, while some others shot the ball well but did not get as many shots.

Ibaka shot 51.1 per cent, better than Powell (42.3), Terence Davis (42.1), Matt Thomas (41.7), Anunoby (41.5), Boucher (40.0), Stanley Johnson (40.0), VanVleet (39.1), Lowry (31.9), Siakam (18.9) and Gasol (18.5).

The Raptors will need Siakam to improve with his three-point shot or else the team might want to attempt to re-distribute their three-point shots more toward the players who are better shooters from deep.

Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said he did not have to think about signing a new deal as the NBA Coach of the Year heads into another uncertain offseason.

Nurse agreed a "multi-year" contract extension earlier this month after guiding the Raptors to their first championship in 2018-19, though he was unable to repeat the feat this season.

The Raptors lost to Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semi-finals at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.

Making his first public comments since re-signing and seeing the Raptors' title defence come to an end, Nurse told reporters on Thursday: "I don't know if it's a load off my mind or anything.

"Obviously, man, I love being here and love the job, and there's nothing not to love, man. I think it was just pretty much, it was time to renew a contract, and that's what we did. It was really, really easy, you know?"

Nurse added: "For me, I love coaching. I love the whole setup here we got, everything. For me, I just want to keep doing it. I want to continue to provide this city and this country with a tremendous amount of energy that they can all get behind and be proud of.

"It means a lot to me that everybody loves a team so much and we can go out there and give them, on most nights, something to really be proud of and play hard and look like we're organised and look like we're playing together and all that stuff. I love that part of it.

"That's really I want. I want to keep doing it. I want to do it in a place I want to be -- and here is where I want to be -- and with some guys I want to coach and with some people I want to work alongside."

While Nurse's future is secure, there are doubts over whether Fred VanVleet, Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol will return as they enter free agency.

Nurse experienced similar at the end of 2018-19 as championship heroes Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green departed for the Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers respectively via free agency.

There are also concerns regarding Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri, who has one year remaining on his contract.

Asked if he was concerned, Nurse replied: "Yeah, for sure. We've been together, [general manager] Bobby [Webster], Masai and I, for seven years now. Only a real close working relationship for two, since I became a head coach, and we feel like a team. We feel like a team that leads the organisation. So yeah, there's a little concern.

"I was never concerned that they were not going to get a deal done for me. I feel the same way about Bobby and the same for Masai. If something changes, we'll do the best we can. If it changes, it will probably be for a good reason for somebody or a better reason. If not, we'll just keep working together."

LeBron James and Anthony Davis were both named in the All-NBA First Team on Wednesday as the Los Angeles Lakers prepare to face the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals.

The All-NBA selections were announced as the playoffs hot up in Orlando, although the Lakers duo were the only remaining members of the First Team.

James and Davis were joined by James Harden, whose Houston Rockets they beat in the second round, along with reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and Luka Doncic.

MVP candidates James and Antetokounmpo were both unanimous votes.

The Los Angeles Clippers' Kawhi Leonard and playoff nemesis Nikola Jokic headlined the Second Team. Jokic led the Nuggets past the Clippers on Tuesday to complete another remarkable series fightback.

Damian Lillard was also included after carrying the Portland Trail Blazers into the postseason, alongside veteran Chris Paul, who impressed following his trade from the Rockets to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Pascal Siakam - disappointing in the playoffs for defending champions the Toronto Raptors - made up the selection.

Meanwhile, in the Third Team, the Boston Celtics' Jayson Tatum and the Miami Heat's Jimmy Butler are both still alive as Eastern Conference Finals opponents.

Russell Westbrook, part of the Paul trade, got recognition, too, and was joined by Rudy Gobert and Ben Simmons, the latter ending the season injured.

Nick Nurse is staying with the Toronto Raptors after agreeing a "multi-year" contract extension, the NBA team announced on Tuesday.

The coach who led his team to the 2019 NBA championship could not mastermind a repeat this year as the Raptors were beaten in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference semi-final by the Boston Celtics.

But Dwane Casey's former assistant, named NBA coach of the year in August, is the man Toronto want to lead them forward having made an overwhelmingly positive contribution in his two seasons in charge.

The Raptors went 53-19 in the regular season as they put up a spirited defence of their first championship.

Raptors president Masai Ujiri said: "Our confidence in Nick just continues to grow, and part of that comes from what we've experienced together.

"The past two seasons have been unlike any other in our team’s history - first, winning our championship, and then navigating a global pandemic and committing long-term to the fight against racism and for social justice.

"Nick has proved that he can coach on the court and lead in life, and we're looking forward to accomplishing great things in the future."

Nurse, who coached a number of British Basketball League teams including the Manchester Giants and London Towers, got his big break in the NBA in 2013 when he joined Casey's staff in Toronto.

The 53-year-old Iowa native said: "Toronto has been my home for the past seven years, and I look forward to it being home for many more. I've watched this franchise grow and reach the pinnacle, and I look forward to the challenge of helping us win another championship."

Marcus Smart said "I bet on myself 110 per cent of the time" after making a crucial late block in the Boston Celtics' Game 7 triumph over the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

With a little under a minute remaining of the deciding rubber in Orlando, Smart made a critical intervention against Norman Powell that ended the Raptors' best chance of tying the game.

Just a few days ago it was Powell who nailed a one-on-one lay-up against the same opponent to level a thrilling series, which the Celtics finally saw out with their 92-87 victory on Friday.

"As soon as Norman caught the ball, instantly I remembered last game," Smart said.

"In my mind I was just telling myself, 'He has to dunk it. I'm not gonna give a foul. I'm just gonna meet him up top and see who wins that battle.'

"I bet on myself 110 per cent of the time. I'm first-team All-Defense for a reason and I believe in that wholeheartedly."

Smart often gets overlooked by the higher scorers in the Celtics' team and it was Jayson Tatum who led the way with 29 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists.

But team-mate Kemba Walker paid tribute to Smart's work, which he often feels goes under the radar.

"That block was so special," Walker said. "It was unreal. That's why he's first-team All-Defense. 

"He shows it night in and night out. He made so many huge plays tonight. A lot of the things he does just go unnoticed.

"But that kid, he's special, man. He's on a different level at that end of the basketball court."

The Celtics' reward is a showdown with the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals, two sides who have a long-term history in the playoffs.

The rivalry stretches to the boardroom with Celtics president Danny Ainge and Heat counterpart Pat Riley having bad blood that spans four decades.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens believes their experience against the Raptors, whose hopes of retaining the NBA title are now over, should stand them in good stead for an altogether different task.

"We should definitely be hardened," he said. "We should definitely have a lot more in our toolbox to go back to. We have to get ready for a different, more unique team now in Miami."

Raptors star Kyle Lowry admitted it was a difficult defeat for the team to swallow, saying: "Man, it was a tough game to lose. But they won. Tip your hats to them. They have a chance to go on and play against Miami and get to the championship."

Raptors head coach Nick Nurse added: "They gave everything they had. Special team."

The Boston Celtics advanced to the Eastern Conference finals after ousting NBA champions the Toronto Raptors 92-87 in Game 7.

With the Eastern Conference semi-final playoff series deadlocked at 3-3, it was a winner-takes-all clash in Orlando, Florida on Friday.

Boston emerged triumphant against the second-seeded Raptors 4-3 to earn a showdown with the Miami Heat thanks to Jayson Tatum's double-double of 29 points and 12 rebounds.

The Denver Nuggets, meanwhile, stayed alive after topping the Los Angeles Clippers 111-105 in Game 5 of their Western Conference semi-final.

Denver were facing elimination but the Nuggets overturned a 15-point deficit to reduce the Clippers' lead to 3-2 at Walt Disney World Resort.


Jokic and Murray lift Nuggets

Denver's star duo produced when it mattered most. Nikola Jokic put up 22 points and 14 rebounds, while Jamal Murray had 26 points for the rallying Nuggets.

Kawhi Leonard posted a game-high 36 points and nine rebounds but it was not enough for second seeds the Clippers, while team-mate Paul George finished with 26 points.

Jaylen Brown recorded 21 points as the Celtics reached the Conference finals for the third time in four years.


Celtics struggled from free-throw line

While the Celtics progressed, they shot just 56.5 per cent from the free-throw line, making only 13 of their 23 attempts.

Lou Williams was far from his best for the Clippers. He was two of 10 from the field, while missing all five of his three-pointers. Williams ended the game with four points in 19 minutes.


Rockets face Lakers

Western Conference top seeds the Los Angeles Lakers can book their passage through to the next round if they beat the Houston Rockets on Saturday. LeBron James and the Lakers lead 3-1.

Norman Powell rescued the Toronto Raptors' season with his performance in the double overtime win over the Boston Celtics, according to Fred VanVleet.

The reigning champions forced a Game 7 with a 125-122 triumph on Wednesday, having been 2-0 and 3-2 down in the Eastern Conference semi-finals. 

While Kyle Lowry scored a game-high 33 points, it was Powell's display that Raptors guard VanVleet was most thankful for.

Powell put up 10 of his 23 points in the second overtime period and nailed a crucial three-pointer to level the scores late on, throwing in a key block on Daniel Theis for good measure.

"He saved us. He saved our season," VanVleet said.

"That is his trademark now. You never know when it is going to happen, but it always happens at some point in the playoffs. He was huge for us.

"Obviously, Kyle was steady the whole night, but Norm really gave us a boost there."

The series will now be decided on Friday, with momentum firmly on the side of the Raptors, who VanVleet concedes were slow to get off the mark.

"I think everyone came into this series expecting a long series," he said.

"I don't think we lived up to that in the first couple of games. We were able to work ourselves back into position to give ourselves a chance. Game 7 to go to the Eastern Conference finals, all you can ask for is a chance.

"[It was a] pretty long game, longer than we all would have asked for, but time to get some rest and go back at it again."

Man of the hour Powell felt the contest underlined the Raptors' need to piece together a more complete display to make sure of their spot in the finals.

"I think the games that we've won [in this series] have shown we have to put together a full 48-minute effort," Powell said.

"Have no lulls, offensively or defensively. Whatever happens through mistakes and moments where we do mess up whatever the game plan is, we continue to fight through it and figure it out and help one another."

The Toronto Raptors forced a Game 7 against the Boston Celtics, while the Los Angeles Clippers pulled clear in the NBA playoffs.

The Raptors drew level in the Eastern Conference semi-finals but needed double overtime to edge the Celtics 125-122.

A game-high 33 points from Kyle Lowry lifted the defending champions in Game 6 at the Walt Disney World Resort on Wednesday.

The Raptors stayed alive thanks to the thrilling victory and despite Marcus Smart's triple-double of 23 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists for Boston.

Boston led by four early in the second period of OT and were up by three with one minute, 37 seconds remaining before Toronto fought back.

The Clippers moved into a 3-1 lead over the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference semi-finals after a 96-85 victory.

Kawhi Leonard finished with 30 points and 11 rebounds in Game 4, in which the Clippers never trailed.

Powell produces, Jokic's big performance not enough

Norman Powell posted 23 points off the bench for the Raptors, shooting six-of-11 from the field.

OG Anunoby had a double-double of 13 points and 13 rebounds, while Fred VanVleet finished with 21 points.

Celtics duo Jayson Tatum (29 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists) and Jaylen Brown (31 points and 16 rebounds) almost saw Boston to a series win.

Brown, Tatum and Smart were the first trio of team-mates to have 20-plus points and 10-plus rebounds in the same playoff game since Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish achieved the feat for Boston in 1987, according to STATS.

Nuggets star Nikola Jokic had 26 points, 11 rebounds and six assists in Denver's loss.


Walker's woes

Kemba Walker went two-of-11 from the field to post just five points in more than 51 minutes for Boston.


Lakers face Rockets

Leading the Western Conference semi-final 2-1, the Los Angeles Lakers look to pull further clear of the Houston Rockets on Thursday.

Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse is optimistic that the NBA's defending champions have the mentality to bounce back despite the Boston Celtics taking a 3-2 playoffs lead with a 111-89 victory on Monday.

The Celtics won the first two matches in the Eastern Conference semi-finals series before the Raptors battled back to level it up at 2-2 with successive wins of their own.

But now the 2019 champions are facing the prospect of a do-or-die Game 6 following Monday's loss, knowing defeat next time out will see their defence crumble.

Nurse feels positive about their chances, however, adamant they have shown their mettle when it really mattered in the past.

"We're really good at bouncing back," Nurse said.

"It's strange to me that we have these kinds of games, it really is. But historically we have [bounced back], and then historically we really usually bounce back in a big way."

Frustrations boiled over in the Raptors' ranks during the match, with Serge Ibaka reprimanding Kyle Lowry for a personal foul on Jayson Tatum before Fred VanVleet attempted to calm the former.

VanVleet insisted the situation was just accentuated by the fact there were no fans there, however.

"Those frustrations happen all the time," he said. "You guys don't see a lot of them, but that was one that was obviously visible and you could probably hear a little bit there if you were in the arena. Just some frustrations with the game.

"Kyle had his moment with the ref. Serge had his moment with Kyle, but we moved on, we moved past it. It happens. We're brothers.

"It wasn't as bad as it looked, I can tell you that much. That's an everyday thing on our team. Guys just being honest. We have a lot of passionate guys. It's just part of the process."

On the flip side, Jaylen Brown – whose 27 points led the way for Celtics – is not getting carried away, reminding his team-mates they still have a job to do in Game 6.

"It's the playoffs, we've got to come out ready to fight every single night. If not, that's how you lose. So, our guys came out ready to fight tonight," he said.

"But [Monday's result] doesn't say anything. We've got to get ready to play [Wednesday]. The job's not finished yet. We've still got a lot of work that needs to be done."

Coach Brad Stevens added: "They've got a lot of people to go to, and we're going to have to be good again."

The Los Angeles Clippers and Boston Celtics restored their series leads in the NBA playoffs on Monday.

The Clippers overcame the Denver Nuggets 113-107 in Game 3 of the Western Conference semi-finals.

Paul George top-scored for the Clippers with 32 points as they moved back ahead in the series.

The guard went 12-of-18 from the field and five-of-seven from three-point range at the Walt Disney World Resort.

Clippers star Kawhi Leonard posted a double-double of 23 points and 14 rebounds.

The Celtics went 3-2 up against the Toronto Raptors courtesy of a dominant 111-89 victory in Game 5.

Toronto had won back-to-back games, but Jaylen Brown's 27 points led the Celtics to their win.


Tatum's double-double, Jokic heroics not enough

Jayson Tatum recorded a double-double of 18 points and 10 rebounds in the Celtics' victory.

Boston got an even contribution, with Kemba Walker putting up 21 points on the back of eight-of-15 shooting.

Nikola Jokic was huge for the Nuggets. He had 32 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists, but Denver fell to the Clippers.

Michael Porter Jr. managed a double-double of 18 points and 10 rebounds off the bench for Denver.


Murray battles

Jamal Murray's up-and-down form continued. He was five-of-17 from the field for 14 points in 38 minutes for the Nuggets.


Heat face Bucks

The Milwaukee Bucks avoided a shock series sweep against the Miami Heat in their Eastern Conference semi-final, but they will need another win on Tuesday to stay alive in a series Miami lead 3-1. The Bucks could be without star Giannis Antetokounmpo (ankle).

Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse did not feel "especially satisfied" despite the defending NBA champions beating the Boston Celtic 100-93 to level their series at 2-2.

Pascal Siakam and Kyle Lowry starred for the Raptors in the Eastern Conference semi-final playoff, leading them to a crucial Game 4 win on Saturday.

Siakam posted 23 points and 11 rebounds, while Lowry claimed a double-double of his own with 22 points and 11 rebounds.

The Raptors had suffered back-to-back losses at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, in the first two matches of the series, but following their buzzer-beating win in Game 3, they are back on level terms.

But Nurse was not getting carried away and he wants more from the Raptors as they look to take charge of the series.

"We don't think we're defending a title," said Nurse. "We're just trying to get this team to do what they can do at as high a level as they can.

"And that, to me, is the job. I don't feel especially satisfied about winning this game tonight or how we played.

"I think that's what we're supposed to do and this is what we're working for – to get these guys to play as hard as they can and play together to get the result, and just go back to work and try to do it a little better again tomorrow."

While the Raptors were grateful to tie the series, there was more than a hint of rueful thinking from the Celtics, particularly Kemba Walker.

The four-time NBA All-Star finished with 15 points and eight assists, but he shot just nine times and successfully converted one of six from three-point range as the Celtics routinely faltered from beyond the arc.

"I got to be more aggressive, I wasn't aggressive enough," he reflected. "That's unacceptable on my behalf, to be honest. There's no way I can just be taking nine shots. That's unacceptable.

"Honestly, man, I thought we had great looks. I thought we had great looks throughout the whole game.

"We just really missed. We missed a lot of open ones that we know we can make. Like I said, we've got to make them. We have to make shots. When guys get shots, when guys are open, we've got to knock those shots down.

"We'll do better. We'll do better."

Pascal Siakam and Kyle Lowry starred as defending champions the Toronto Raptors topped the Boston Celtics 100-93 to level their Eastern Conference semi-final series in the NBA playoffs.

Siakam posted 23 points and 11 rebounds and Lowry had a double-double of his own with 22 points and 11 rebounds to help the Raptors take down the Celtics in Game 4 on Saturday.

After back-to-back defeats, the Raptors have managed to level the series 2-2 at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida following their buzzer-beating victory in Game 3.

The Denver Nuggets also levelled their second-round series against the Los Angeles Clippers via a 110-101 triumph in the Western Conference.

In Game 2, Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic led the way for the Nuggets, who led by as many as 23 points against the second-seeded Clippers.


Murray, Jokic fuel Nuggets

Following a subdued display in the series opener, Murray put up 27 points for the Nuggets. Team-mate Jokic finished with 26 points and 18 rebounds.

Jayson Tatum recorded 24 points and 10 rebounds for the beaten Celtics.


Leonard struggles against Nuggets

It was a rare off night for Kawhi Leonard offensively. The two-time NBA champion, who had at least 29 points in all seven playoff games this season, posted 13 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. He shot just four for 17 from the field.

The Celtics were just seven for 35 (20 per cent) from three-point range. Brown missed his first nine attempts from beyond the arc and finished two for 11. Boston team-mates Tatum, Kemba Walker and Marcus Smart were all one for six on three-pointers.


Filthy Murray

Nuggets star Murray left Leonard scrambling following this move.


Bucks face Heat

The Milwaukee Bucks will look to stay alive and avoid a series sweep when they meet the Miami Heat in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals on Sunday. In the west, the Los Angeles Lakers can bounce back from their opening-game loss to the Houston Rockets.

Fred VanVleet aimed a shot at the Brooklyn Nets after the Toronto Raptors halved the deficit in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference semi-final series with the Boston Celtics.

OG Anunoby's buzzer-beating three-pointer gave the Raptors a 104-103 victory over the Celtics on Thursday, seeing the defending champions narrowly avoid falling 3-0 behind.

Toronto had a week off after sweeping the Nets in the first round of the playoffs and the start of their series with Boston, which was delayed by teams refusing to take the court in protest against racial injustice and police brutality after Jacob Blake was shot in the back several times by an officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

VanVleet felt the uncertainty of that situation coupled with the minimal challenge posed by the Nets – who were without long-term absentees Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, as well as Spencer Dinwiddie and DeAndre Jordan after they opted out of playing in the NBA bubble – made it tough for the Raptors to start strongly in the semi-finals.

Asked why he said Toronto had experienced "a rough couple of days", VanVleet explained: "I think it's everything. With all due respect to Brooklyn, I don't think that got us ready to play at the level we needed to be ready for Game 1.

"I think the transgressions of those few days, whether we were gonna sit, whether we were gonna play, coupled with laying that egg in Game 1, that was a lot. And then we played our butts off in Game 2 and didn't come out with the win, so it's disappointing.

"We expect a lot of ourselves and so to be down 0-2, we know it wasn't over, but nobody was happy. People were p***** off, the mood wasn't great, and all we needed was one to get the juice back. A little magic, a little luck to get the momentum going on your side. Now we've got to try to tie this thing up on Saturday."

VanVleet had 25 points on 9-of-22 shooting from the field, while he was 5-of-13 from beyond the arc in Game 3.

Jaylen Brown was left fuming after OG Anunoby's buzzer-beater snatched a dramatic 104-103 win for the Toronto Raptors to reduce the Boston Celtics' series lead to 2-1.

The Celtics looked set to be on the brink of the Eastern Conference finals when a Daniel Theis dunk with 0.5 seconds to play put them two points up on Thursday.

Yet there was one final twist, as a miscommunication between Jayson Tatum and Brown gave Anunoby the opportunity to win Game 3 and he grasped it to give the defending champions a lifeline.

Celtics guard Brown was furious over such a costly late lapse, with Brown left free for a decisive three-pointer.

He said: "That was just a f****** disgrace at the end of the game. That was just terrible.

"No way we should have lost that game. I take responsibility for that. Not just that play, but a lot of the plays before. And it happens.

"This is the NBA playoffs. Either you let them gain momentum or you come back and be ready to play next game."

He added: "Just a miscommunication [of] the coverage that we were in. That's all that really is. They made a remarkable play at the end. [Anunoby] snuck along the baseline, and we just gotta communicate better, that's it.

"As a unit, that can't happen. We were matched up, and OG snuck along the baseline, didn't recognise him early enough and he got a wide-open look.

"We gotta be better than that. We gotta communicate better. Me being four years in, I gotta be better. Can't give up the three at the end of the game. He made a remarkable shot, but still.

"It's a f****** disgrace. Terrible. No excuse for it. At all. It was ridiculous. Can't take your foot off the gas at all. We gotta be ready to play Game 4 [on Saturday]."

Toronto Raptors hero OG Anunoby said he was not surprised to hit the buzzer-beating three-pointer against the Boston Celtics in the NBA playoffs, insisting "I don't shoot trying to miss".

Anunoby nailed the game-winning three as time expired to lift defending champions the Raptors to a 104-103 victory over the Celtics in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

After Daniel Theis' dunk had put the Celtics ahead by two points with a half-second remaining, Anunoby caught a cross-court pass from Kyle Lowry and hit a stunning shot from beyond the arc at Walt Disney World Resort.

The Raptors snapped a run of back-to-back defeats as they reduced the Celtics' lead to 2-1 heading into Saturday's Game 4.

Asked how he stayed so calm in a clutch moment, Anunoby – who barely showed any emotion as he was mobbed by his team-mates – replied: "I expected to make it. I don't shoot trying to miss. Every shot I try to make it… I wasn't surprised."

"No one was rattled after [Theis' dunk]," Anunoby said. "Everyone stayed confident about the next play. Let's focus on running this play and getting a good shot off.

"We were confident in anyone that took the shot that [they] could make it. This group is resilient. Just a next-play mentality."

Raptors star Lowry, who provided the assist for Anunoby's winner and finished with 31 points, added: “That pass was nothing, that shot was everything.

"He deserves all the love and celebration he's getting tonight, that kid works extremely hard and, like I said, it's his moment."

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