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Celtics take down defending champs, advance to Eastern Conference Finals

Boston was resilient and held on to win Game 7 against the Toronto Raptors. Let’s go over a recap of the game Friday and look ahead to the ECF.

Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics drives the ball as Pascal Siakam of the Toronto Raptors defends during the fourth quarter in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2020 NBA Playoffs at AdventHealth Arena at the ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex on September 11, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors battled for seven games and while we would have liked more basketball, somebody had the win the series. The Celtics picked up a 92-87 win in Game 7 on Friday night in the NBA bubble to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. The Celtics will meet the Miami Heat, who took care of business against the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in five games.

Jayson Tatum finished with 29 points, 12 rebounds and 7 assists in 44 minutes in the win. Jaylen Brown, who got banged up in the win, added 21 points and 8 boards. The Celtics used a very short bench with four of five starters played 43-plus minutes. Now, they’ll have to go right into a matchup against a tough Heat team that has been fearless in the postseason.

The end to the Raptors season is disappointing, but this is what happens when your best players don’t all step up. The Celtics defense was insanely good on Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam and neither player could get anything going. Kyle Lowry was the only player who seemed to show up the entire series. Norman Powell and Serge Ibaka had their moments, but really the Raps were lucky to get to Game 7. This series could have easily been over after four games.

So we can look ahead to the ECF now with the Celtics and Heat locked in. It will be interesting to see who is favored. I’d say the Celtics will get the slight edge. They’ve got a better defense and better starters. The Heat have more depth and probably better 3-point shooting. I’m looking at Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler to be the difference compared to the Raptors series. Boston got it easy in a lot of games with Toronto struggling to score. Miami has a handful of very good shooters, defenders and veterans who have won in the postseason before.

As for a pick, I’d probably go with the Celtics initially. I think Tatum, Brown, Kemba Walker and Marcus Smart are a better core than what the Heat have right now. It’s the playoffs, so the bench depth doesn’t matter as much. Gordon Hayward could come back but that won’t make much of a difference one way or the other to me. What I can say is this series should go at least 6-7 games. If I were betting the series lines, I’d focus on those two numbers.