Your Morning Dump… Where the Celtics win Game 7, and Game 3 is forgotten forever

© Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Your Morning Dump… Where the Celtics win Game 7, and Game 3 is forgotten forever

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Your Morning Dump… Where the Celtics win Game 7, and Game 3 is forgotten forever

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Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big story line. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.

One week ago in this space, we considered this question: Would letting Game 3 unforgivably slip away become just a footnote to a Celtics series win, or would it be a turning point leading to a heartbreaking elimination?

To determine the answer, we rode a roller coaster through a disappointing Game 4, an encouraging Game 5, and the frustrating inability to close out in Game 6. The series was in doubt until last night’s final seconds — but finally we know: we can forget Game 3 forever.

Tatum led the way with a performance that reinforced his superstardom.

He would finish the game with a fourth straight double-double, of 29 points and 12 rebounds.

The 22-year-old is showing that he can also get his teammates involved as well, tacking on another seven assists.

And those numbers came against an elite Toronto defense which focused heavily on trying to get the ball out of his hands as much as possible with a wide range of defenses that constantly kept changing.

“He just has a great feel for the game,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “In this series, he saw everything you could possibly see. He’s done a great job of handling it.”

NBC Sports Boston: Jayson Tatum does it all when it matters most for the Celtics

The expectations are sky high now for Deuce’s dad. So far during these amazing playoffs in the bubble, Jayson is coming through in a big way.

The Celtics also got several game-altering contributions from an unlikely source: Grant Williams. The rookie didn’t see the court for three-plus quarters, then was thrust into the final 7 minutes of Game 7. He delivered.

With the Raptors going small as expected in the fourth quarter and Daniel Theis in foul trouble, the C’s head coach had a big decision to make with his season on the line. He could go small with Brad Wanamaker who played an uneventful 10 minutes or throw his rookie forward into the mix during crunch time of a Game 7 for the first time all season. Grant Williams got the call for his switchability and rebounding and came up big on both of those fronts despite missing two key free throws with 30 seconds left in regulation. Most importantly, Williams held strong on VanVleet’s potential game-tying 3 at the end of regulation, staying tight enough to contest the shot well and get a piece of it (even though he wasn’t credited with the block). This is the type of defense that Williams has been working hard on all season long before games and it ended up helping to secure the C’s a spot in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Boston Sports Journal: BSJ Game Report: Celtics 92, Raptors 87 – C’s grind their way to Game 7 victory

That block on Van Vleet ended Toronto’s last threat and effectively sealed the win. And now…

The season will go on. Now that the Celtics have dispatched the Raptors, it’s fair to believe this team has a realistic title shot for the first time in the Stevens era. […]

The NBA looks far more open this season, especially after the top-seeded Bucks got blitzed out of the second round. The Lakers and Clippers are great, but the Celtics shouldn’t be pushovers for any team. Tatum’s ascension has changed their ceiling. So has Walker’s fit. Smart and Jaylen Brown showed off their development throughout the series against Toronto. The Celtics needed big games and series from both of those guys.

The Athletic: After outlasting Raptors, winning NBA title now a realistic option for Celtics

Read that again: “…it’s fair to believe this team has a realistic title shot … Tatum’s ascension has changed their ceiling.”

Giddy-up, baby!

And there’s more good news as the Celts now prep for Miami: Reinforcements appear to be on the way. Gordon Hayward was courtside with the team.

During the game’s broadcast, TNT sideline reporter Rebecca Haarlow reported that a person within the Celtics organization told her Hayward is expected to return “sooner rather than later.” The team had initially ruled Hayward out for at least four weeks following his Grade III ankle sprain suffered in Game 1 of Boston’s first-round series against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Sept. 15 marks the end of the four-week timetable. Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals is scheduled to tip off that evening. Game 2 is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 17, with Game 3 to follow on Saturday, Sept. 19.

Boston.com: Brad Stevens: Gordon Hayward likely to return in Eastern Conference Finals

Another development: it’s now unclear if Hayward will still head home for the birth of his son later this month. He might instead remain in the bubble to avoid missing any more games. Stay tuned for more about that.

Related – USA Today / Celtics Wire: WATCH: Boston Celtics-Toronto Raptors Game 7, Round 2 full highlights

MassLive: Jayson Tatum leads Boston Celtics past Toronto Raptors, into Eastern Conference Finals  |  Boston Celtics rookie Grant Williams pressed into Game 7 service, comes up big; ‘He’s not even a rookie anymore the way he plays’  |  Here’s everything the Boston Celtics said after their Game 7 win over the Toronto Raptors

On Page 2: Winning plays, again

The Celtics’ 10-point lead was all but gone, and these Raptors, who had stunned and stymied the Celtics in the most unlikely ways over the course of these conference semifinals, appeared to have an opportunity to do it once more.

After Jayson Tatum missed a layup with a minute left, Normal Powell broke free on a fast-break with a chance to tie the game, with only a backpedaling Marcus Smart in his way. Smart said that in the moment he thought back to Powell’s big 3-point play on a similar sequence in Toronto’s Game 6 double-overtime win.

“So when he caught the ball,” Smart said, “in my mind I was just telling myself ‘He has to dunk it, I’m not going to give him no foul. I’m just going to meet him up top and see who wins that battle.’ I bet on myself 110 percent of the time, and I’m first team All-Defense for a reason, and I believe in that wholeheartedly.”

Smart met Powell in midair and swatted his layup attempt off the backboard, preserving the lead and ultimately saving Boston’s 92-87 Game 7 win that will send it to the conference finals against the Heat.

Globe: Marcus Smart’s clutch block powers Celtics past champion Raptors, and other observations

We like to say that whatever the Celtics need – a steal, a block, a clutch rebound, a barrage of threes – Marcus Smart will find a way. And usually that results in a win. He did it again last night.

Norman Powell’s shooting had tormented the Cs for the past three games. Smart’s rejection was the play of the game, stifling the Raptors rally. The Raps didn’t score another point.

 

Simply put, there’s no one else like Smart, not in the entire NBA. Now the Celts will play the Heat, and Smart will match up a lot with Jimmy Butler. The two have beefed in the past, and are likely to beef again. Get ready for another hard-fought series.

Related – NBC Sports Boston: Marcus Smart’s game-saving block turns up the Heat

MassLive: Boston Celtics Marcus Smart on his Game 7-saving block: ‘I’m first team All-Defense for a reason’

And, finally… Next!

Game 1 of the Celtics-Heat series is set for Tuesday, at either 6:30 or 8:30 p.m. The time depends on the result of the Clippers-Nuggets series. If Denver wins Game 6, the Celtics will play at 6:30. If the Clippers end the series in six, Celtics-Heat Game 1 will tip at 8:30.

Related – ESPN: NBA playoffs: Why this next chapter of Heat-Celtics won’t let us down

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