The Toronto Raptors have been here before.
Just a season ago, the Raptors were staring a 2-0 deficit in the face in the Eastern Conference finals against the Milwaukee Bucks. Toronto answered with four straight victories to advance to — and eventually win — the NBA Finals.
“We’re pretty pissed right now,” Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry said afterward. “We’re down 0-2. But we have to go back and look at the film and understand what we’ve done wrong and look at what we can do better.”
As Lowry pointed out, this isn’t a normal 2-0 series. The Raptors aren’t going to play in front of their home fans or a raucous away crowd. This is a neutral-court game at Walt Disney World Resort.
“We just lost two games. We have a chance to get one game. That’s all we have to do,” Lowry said. “Get one game, and take it one game at a time. The Celtics, they are playing extremely well. We have to find a way to get ourselves going better.”
Toronto led by as many as 12 in the third quarter and entered the fourth quarter up 78-70. Then Marcus Smart hit five 3-pointers — including a four-point play — in the first 4:05 of the fourth quarter as Boston took control.
It didn’t help that the Raptors shot 5-of-21 from the field and 1-of-11 from 3-point range in one of their worst fourth-quarter performances of the season.
Now, all the pressure shifts onto the Raptors in Game 3.
“We gotta win next game,” Raptors forward Pascal Siakam said. “That’s what matters. I think we’ve played pretty decent. Obviously, in the fourth quarter there, we didn’t make shots like they did. I think we just have to take that and continue to have the same intensity and win next game and worry about that.”
Siakam went 0-for-3 in the fourth quarter and 6-for-16 for the game. Lowry and fellow starting guard Fred VanVleet combined to go 2-for-10 (1-for-7 from 3) in the fourth quarter and a combined 13-for-38 (3-for-19 from 3) overall.
Despite having the edge in the first two games, the Celtics aren’t resting on their laurels, even though Boston has handed Toronto all three of its losses since the NBA restart.
“Our work’s not done,” Celtics guard Kemba Walker said. “Even though we’re up two games, these guys have been down before. These guys know what it takes. They’re still the defending champs. And we’ve still got tons of work to do. These guys ain’t going away at all. They’re going to come even stronger.”
Raptors coach Nick Nurse said that if last season’s run to the Finals after being down 2-0 to Milwaukee taught Toronto anything, it’s that the team shouldn’t give up.
“We know the next game is super critical,” Nurse said. “But they are all critical. They are. But we know this one is super critical.”