The Boston Celtics couldn't eliminate the reigning NBA champions, the Toronto Raptors, Wednesday night, losing 125-122 in double overtime of Game 6 of their playoff matchup.
The result of the scrappy game sends the teams to a decisive Game 7 in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
The Celtics' Daniel Theis managed a pair of alley-oops in the second overtime but the Raptors responded with a pair of three pointers and a three-point play, pulling away for good.
In-depth news coverage of the Greater Boston Area.
"Game 7 to go to the Eastern Conference finals," Raptors guard Fred VanVleet said. "All you can ask for is a chance."
The Celtics led by a dozen points at one point in the second quarter, but the Raptors clawed their way back in the third, which Boston has consistently struggled with. But the Raptors didn't score in the final 4:24 of regulation.
The teams were tied at 98 when the fourth quarter came to a close and knotted at 106 at the end of Game 6's first overtime.
The Celtics took a two-game lead in the series, only for the Raptors to respond with two wins of their own. In Game 5, Boston controlled start to finish on the way to a 111-89 win, putting Toronto on the brink.
Kyle Lowry said ahead of Game 6 that his Raptors couldn't be thinking about winning two games. This one, he said, was all that matters.
“We’ve just got to work on one,” Lowry said. “I’m very confident in our group. Our group is very tough-minded, tough-spirited and we’re a good team. We know what we’ve got to do. We’ve got to take one game at a time, one possession, one minute, one second at a time and just go out there and play.”
The Celtics were 6-3 against the Raptors this season, with four of those wins coming by at least 15 points. Celtics guard Kemba Walker was “checking hearts” before Game 5 — he did so by slapping teammates in the chest before they took the court — but he only scored 5 points in Game 6 despite logging 52 minutes.
Lowry had a game-high 33 points, while Jaylen Brown led the Celtics with 31 points, with 16 rebounds.
The Celtics had their starters on the floor — without a single sub — for the final 22-plus minutes.
Jayson Tatum had 29 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists. Marcus Smart had 23 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists, and missed a 3-pointer that would have tied it with about 3 seconds left in the second extra session.
"We had a lot of opportunities down the stretch and we didn't take care of the all as good as we needed to," Brown said. "That's fine. We're heading into a Game 7. We feel good about ourselves."
Theis had 18 points for the Celtics. He played 47 minutes — the other four Boston starters, Tatum, Smart, Brown and Walker, all logged at least 50. And tempers flared when it was over, everyone getting a few extra words in before Game 7 on Friday.
The numbers were ridiculous: Boston shot 44 for 100, Toronto 44 for 101.
"Great basketball game," Boston coach Brad Stevens said.
But Lowry put in plenty of time as well. He played the entire second half again, the third time that happened in the last four games. And he needed three stitches postgame to close a cut after he got struck in the second quarter.
The Celtics will be in a Game 7 for the 33rd time; they're 23-9 all-time — but have lost four of their last seven ultimate games. The Raptors are 3-2 in Game 7s.
The winner of the Celtics-Raptors series will face the fifth-seeded Miami Heat, who finished off an upset of the NBA’s best regular-season team Tuesday, topping the Milwaukee Bucks 103-94 in Game 5 of their East semifinal series — while Giannis Antetokounmpo, the league’s reigning MVP, couldn’t play because of a sprained right ankle.
The Celtics and Heat last met in the conference finals in 2012 when Miami prevailed in Game 7. The Heat also beat the Celtics in a five-game conference semifinals series in 2011 and lost to Boston in a five-game first-round series in 2010.
The Raptors and Heat have met only once in the playoffs -- a conference semifinals series in 2016 that Toronto won in seven games.