Raptors vs Celtics Live: The officiating in Thursday’s Toronto Raptors Game 6 victory over the Boston Celtics courted plenty of controversy. Two plays in particular stood out. With 43 seconds left in regulation, Celtics forward Jayson Tatum threw a pass out of bounds in the direction of Toronto coach Nick Nurse, who was standing in the corner without technically stepping in bounds. Later, with only 4.4 seconds remaining in regulation, Celtics guard Kemba Walker attempted a possible game-winning shot, but was hit by Raptors forward OG Anunoby for what looked like a foul. No foul was called, though, and the Raptors survived to win in double overtime.
Celtics fans have anxiously awaited the league’s verdict on the matters, and on Thursday, it released the Last 2 Minute Report on the game’s ending. On the first play, it ruled that Nurse had not violated any regulations, saying “coaches may be on or off the bench from the substitution box line (closest to the coach’s bench) to the baseline. Coach Nurse’s (TOR) presence in the corner is not illegal and he does not directly interfere with the play.” Below is the play in question.
But 39 seconds later, the NBA ruled that Anunoby did in fact commit a foul on Walker. That should have led to free throws that potentially could have won the game for Boston. “Anunoby (TOR) makes contact to Walker’s (BOS) arm during his shooting motion that affects his driving shot attempt,” the report states. The video upholds that ruling.
It is one thing to be an exceptionally great player. It is something else entirely to channel and tap into that greatness in the exceptionally important and pressure-filled moments of the NBA playoffs.
That reality — and the stark gulf between greatness in the moment, and greatness overwhelmed by it — was on vivid display Thursday night in the Lakers’ 110-100 win over the Houston Rockets to put them up 3-1 in the second-round playoff series.
On one end of this equation, behold LeBron James: Even with a mild 16 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists he was the quintessential winner, and his team followed suit.
On the other, see James Harden: 2 of 11, a misleading 21 points on the night, most coming at the free-throw line, as the Beard braved literally nothing in a fourth quarter in which he did not take a single shot.
Not one. Not one field-goal attempt.
On the one hand, quiet excellence. On the other, silent abdication.
So we know this now: Harden is no playoff hero, and he’s unlikely ever to be. He has simply failed, so many times, to turn these biggest of basketball moments into anything other than disappointment. As Kevin O’Connor at The Ringer pointed out before the Rockets had even bested the Thunder in the first round, over the past five years Harden has shot less than 25 percent from the 3-point line in playoff fourth quarters and overtimes.
What Harden did Thursday night was even more problematic: He accepted what too many of us already know. That he can’t do it. That he won’t do it. That he hasn’t done it, and that as a result a Rockets team that won Game 1 of this series, that entered the fourth quarter of Game 2 up two, that entered the fourth quarter of Game 3 tied — a Rockets team one capable MVP away from having a real chance — will soon be eliminated.
We have been spoiled by greatness from guys like Kawhi, LeBron, Kobe, Duncan, Shaq, Jordan, Isaiah, Bird and Magic. We believe that stars like these should always take their regular-season talents and automatically perform at the same level despite the pressure, angst and difficulties of the playoffs.
Harden reminds us there are no such guarantees. That for every All Time Great, there are so many who had the talent, just not the greatness.
The amazing thing about the NBA playoffs, and Harden’s fourth-quarter cowardice during this series in particular, is that a history of failure or a reputation for playoff struggles is always just one magical run from the narrative flipping completely.
Clayton Kershaw is still waiting for his playoff redemption, and it certainly could arrive this year if he and the Dodgers can finally win it all. Philip Rivers’ window is closing, too, but the Colts may offer a fresh start and improved shot at playoff greatness. We’ll see. These things can change, as they could have for Harden, had he not vanished in this series when his team got him to the brink.
The report found one other missed call, which, again, went against Boston. With 1:35 left in the fourth quarter, it states that Norman Powell should have been called for traveling on a play that eventually led to free throws. Powell made both attempts, and the game went into a second overtime, which the Raptors eventually won.
Missed calls are a part of basketball. That is especially true in the postseason, when officials have a tendency to hold whistles and let players play. This report covers only the final two minutes of the fourth quarter and each overtime. For all we know, Boston could have benefited from a number of missed calls earlier in the game that merely got lost in the shuffle. Toronto got a bit of help, but ultimately, the Raptors won this game on the floor, and Boston will have to try to do the same in Friday’s Game 7.