JAYSON Tatum scored a playoff-career-high 34 points, Marcus Smart sunk five 3-pointers during a furious fourth-quarter comeback and the Boston Celtics rallied past the Toronto Raptors 102-99 in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series Tuesday night near Orlando.
Smart had 19 points, Kemba Walker added 17 and Jaylen Brown 16 as the Celtics took a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. Game 3 will take place Thursday.
OG Anunoby had 20 points and Fred VanVleet 19 for the Raptors, who dropped to 0-3 against Boston in the NBA bubble. Toronto shot 11 of 40 (27.5 percent) from deep.
In the other game, the Denver Nuggets survived a frantic finish to complete a rally from a 3-1 postseason deficit, getting a go-ahead hoop from Nikola Jokic with 27.8 seconds remaining for an 80-78 victory over the Utah Jazz in Game 7 of their Western Conference first-round series.
The 4-3 win vaults the third-seeded Nuggets, who had never previously rallied to win a series from down 3-1, into a second-round matchup with the second-seeded Los Angeles Clippers, beginning Thursday night (Friday in Manila).
Down by as many as 12 late in the third quarter, the Celtics entered the fourth trailing 78-70. Smart, who had three points through the first three quarters, then took over.
Smart nailed a trio of threes as the Celtics got within 80-79. He knotted the score at 82 with another trey to complete a 16-4 Boston spurt.
Anunoby completed a three-point play for the Raptors, and Smart responded with another three and the foul for an 86-85 edge with 7:55 remaining. Tatum nailed a three, and Boston went up 93-87 with 5:41 to go.
A VanVleet trey got Toronto within 95-92. After Tatum and Kyle Lowry each hit two free throws, Walker drilled a three for a 100-94 lead with 2:24 left.
Lowry hit a technical free throw and two more at the line to get the Raptors within 100-99, but Walker hit another bucket for a three-point Celtics lead with 41.6 ticks left. VanVleet’s chance to tie at the buzzer bounced off the board.
Toronto used a 14-2 run to grab the game’s largest lead, 78-66, with 2:46 remaining in the third.
The Raptors, who trailed from start to finish in Game 1, got ahead 17-9 in the first quarter, but the Celtics battled back to knot the score at 28 after one.
Boston went up 50-45 on a Grant Williams dunk with 45.5 seconds left in the half, but Pascal Siakam beat the buzzer with a three to cut the margin to 50-48 at the break.