Celtics ratchet up defense, crush Raptors in Game 5 to move one win from East finals

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Brad Stevens’ Boston Celtics had a 2-0 series lead against Toronto evaporate into a 2-2 series. But he had proper perspective headed into Game 5 on Monday.

"There’s a lot bigger adversities in the world right now than losing a couple game in a row," he said. "We have a chance to hoop tonight and we’re going to go out there and give it our best shot. That’s what we’re going to do. Our guys are excited about that, excited to be here. Perspective is good."

The Celtics did some serious hooping, especially defensively, and clobbered the Raptors 111-89 for a 3-2 series lead.

3-2 lead for the @celtics.. G6 is Wed. (9/9) at 6:30pm/et on [email protected]: 27 PTS, 3 [email protected]: 21 PTS, 7 AST pic.twitter.com/oCmkMzSXjc

Boston forward Jaylen Brown led six Celtics in double figures scoring with 27 points, six rebounds and three steals. Guard Kemba Walker had 21 points and seven assists, and forward Jayson Tatum had 18 points and 10 rebounds. While the Celtics didn’t have a great 3-point shooting game, those three difficult-to-defend perimeter players were a combined 23-for-48 from the field.

Game 5 is Wednesday (6:30 p.m. ET, ESPN), and Celtics are now one victory from reaching the Eastern Conference finals for the third time in the past four seasons.

That won’t be easy. Not only are the Raptors talented, the defending champions have pride.

Jayson Tatum had 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Celtics. (Photo: Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports)

But Toronto needs to play much better than it did in Game 5. The Raptors fell behind 25-9 late in the first quarter and trailed 60-32 late in the second quarter.

Through three quarters, six Celtics accounted for their 87 points, and as much as stopping the Celtics was a problem, scoring on them was an issue, too.

Boston cranked up the defensive pressure. Not only were points hard to get, just getting an open look was difficult. Toronto missed 13 of its first 15 attempts, shot 30.2% from the field and 22.2% on 3-pointers and trailed 62-35 at halftime.

So stumped with finding a lineup that could score and defend, Toronto coach Nick Nurse had a lineup of Chris Boucher, Matt Thomas, Normal Powell, Pascal Siakam and Kyle Lowry.

Lowry (10 points) was 3-for-8 from the field, Marc Gasol didn’t score, OG Anunoby (seven points) was 3-for-11 and Siakam had a quiet 10 points. Siakam and Anunoby didn’t play in the fourth quarter, and Nurse waved the white flag with 6:52 left in the game with Boston ahead 92-73. No Raptors starter played the rest of the game.

Nurse knows what kind of defense he is facing — the Celtics have the top-ranked defense in the playoffs.

"From what I see they’re a very good defensive team and I think most people around the league would agree with that," he said before the game. "They’ve got some guys playing it. They’ve got some great schemes, they’ve got some length. They’ve got some effort. The numbers bear out – it two really good defensive teams and it’s physical and it makes it hard to score. I don’t know if the offensive will improve or not."

Follow Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt.

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