LeBron James is between Toronto’s OG Anunoby and Jonas Valanciunas as the Cavaliers close in on a 3-0 series lead. (Tony Dejak/AP)
The Philadelphia 76ers and Toronto Raptors both face 2-0 holes as they enter Game 3 against the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers, respectively. Follow along here for the latest analysis and commentary from The Post’s NBA reporter Tim Bontemps, and ask him questions in the comments section. Catch up on yesterday’s games here.
Schedule | Pregame reading | Comments section Q&A
A 15-6 run for the Raptors to start the fourth quarter has Toronto back within seven, 87-80, with a little over seven minutes to go in the fourth quarter.
The Raptors have fought admirably, despite trailing the entire game, to give themselves a chance here in the fourth quarter. A loss, obviously, would all but end Toronto’s season.
Even a win would leave the Raptors in a tough spot — that’s what happens when a team loses the first two games on its home court. But at least they’d have a chance in the series.
The next eight minutes will determine if the Raptors can give themselves one.
Jonas Valanciunas simply can’t guard Kevin Love.
So why did Raptors Coach Dwane Casey stick with his starting lineup featuring that very matchup?
He just subbed in Serge Ibaka for Valanciunas, but it does make you wonder why the move wasn’t to start Ibaka and bring Valanciunas off the bench. It would seem that having Valanciunas in the game against Tristan Thompson, and Ibaka against Love, would make more sense.
That said, it might not matter given how Love is playing. After scoring a playoff-high 31 points in Game 2, Love has 19 points and 13 rebounds so far in Game 3 as the lead has been pushed to 14 through three quarters.
LeBron James is playing like someone who smells blood in the water.
With Cleveland holding a 2-0 lead over Toronto, the Cavaliers have a chance to all but end this series with one more victory. James is doing his best to get that win.
At halftime, Cleveland leads 55-40, a lead that was built by the Cavaliers going on a 16-4 run over the first 6:53 of the game, and then going on a 16-2 run over the final 5:07 of the first half. That’s a 32-6 advantage for Cleveland over exactly 12 minutes.
James, as usual, has been at the heart of all of it. He has 15 points, four rebounds, five assists, one steal and one block in 21 minutes. Kevin Love added 12 points and 11 rebounds, while Kyle Korver had 12 points, two rebounds and two assists.
DeMar DeRozan, on the other hand, has been awful. He has three points on 1-for-9 shooting, and is a game-worst minus-22. C.J. Miles actually leads the Raptors in scoring with eight points off the bench.
Having lost the first two games of their Eastern Conference semifinal series at home, Toronto made a lineup change as the series shifted to Cleveland for Game 3.
Fred VanVleet, Toronto’s superb sixth man, entered the starting lineup, with Raptors Coach Dwane Casey choosing to bring Serge Ibaka off the bench instead. The small lineup didn’t exactly work as Casey intended, with Cleveland jumping out to a 16-4 lead.
But the Raptors managed to cut the Cavaliers’ lead to 24-19 after one thanks to a 15-8 run to end the quarter, largely executed with Ibaka playing center. After failing to get a block in either of the first two games of the series, Ibaka had two in the first quarter alone to help spark Toronto’s run to get back into the game.
In a wild, wacky and thrilling game, the Celtics emerged with a heart-stopping 101-98 overtime victory over the Sixers in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference semifinal. The win gives the Celtics a 3-0 lead in this best-of-seven series, a lead no team has ever given up in an NBA playoff series.
Boston looked like it won in regulation when Philadelphia committed a turnover that led to a Jaylen Brown dunk with 1.8 seconds left to give the Celtics a two-point lead. But Marco Belinelli hit a jumper in the corner right in front of the Sixers’ bench to tie the game and send it to overtime.
Philadelphia then looked like it was in control when it led by one with the ball with 42.5 seconds left. But Joel Embiid missed a shot in the lane, and when Ben Simmons got the offensive rebound, he chose to go up for a putback instead of pulling the ball back out, and missed as the shot clock was turned off.
Boston then got the rebound and, after bringing the ball up and calling timeout, Marcus Morris threw a perfect inbounds pass to Al Horford, who had expertly sealed his defender, Robert Covington, at the rim, allowing Horford to catch the ball and lay it in to give the Celtics a 99-98 lead.
Embiid then tried to throw the ball in to Simmons after a Philadelphia timeout, but Horford then stole the ball, and after getting fouled, made a pair of free throws with three seconds left for the final margin.
Belinelli then got one final chance to save the Sixers a second time, but his 30-foot heave – a better look than it seemed like Philadelphia could get, given the Sixers had no timeouts – hit the back of the rim and bounced away, giving the Celtics a wild win and pushing the Sixers to the brink of elimination.
Jayson Tatum led all scorers with 24 points for the Celtics, and was plus-24 in 41 minutes. Embiid had 22 points and 19 rebounds but went 10-for-26, with Boston’s plan of single-covering him and sticking to Philadelphia’s perimeter players — none of whom can create their own shot — working like a charm once again.
What a turn of events in Philadelphia.
Just when it looked like a catastrophic turnover by J.J. Redick was going to hand Boston a 3-0 lead in this Eastern Conference semifinal, the Sixers inbounded the ball with 1.8 seconds to go to Marco Belinelli, who buried a corner jumper right in front of Philadelphia’s bench to tie the score 89-89 at the end of regulation.
That wasn’t the end of the strangeness, however. Because it looked initially like Belinelli shot a three-pointer — his foot was clearly over the line — confetti began falling from the ceiling of Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, and people began to rush the floor.
The start of overtime was delayed because of the confetti still falling from the ceiling, which ESPN’s Cassidy Hubbarth said had to stop completely before the referees can restart the game for health and safety reasons.
Eventually, the teams were able to resume this wild game.
Joel Embiid has picked up another body in this game – this time Al Horford, with a huge dunk to tie the game at 83 late in the fourth.
Embiid may need a couple more of these to pull out a win for the Sixers.
The Sixers have less than 12 minutes to save their season.
More stifling defense from the Celtics has tied early in the fourth quarter. Philadelphia has been held under 40 percent from the field, and largely kept out of transition (the Sixers have 16 fast break points, but six of those came in one spurt right at the end of the second quarter). The result has been the Celtics controlling the pace of play throughout, and leaving this game in doubt heading into the final minutes.
Down 2-0 in the series, it’s do-or-die time for the Sixers. Given how this game has played out, whether that will equal success for them is very much in doubt.
The Sixers made a big run late in the first half to grab control of this game. Why? Because they’ve begun to push the tempo at every opportunity, and good things have followed.
Philadelphia now leads at halftime 51-48, thanks to that 13-0 run, powered by some stops defensively, and then using those stops to create easy looks offensively, the kinds that Boston’s outstanding halfcourt defense completely thwarted earlier in both the game and the series.
Joel Embiid leads the Sixers with 11 points, eight rebounds, one assist, one steal and one block in 16 minutes, having taken 13 shots — five more than any other player on the Sixers, another indication of Brad Stevens being willing to let Embiid shoot while not letting anyone else get going. Ben Simmons, meanwhile, has eight points and five assists on 4-for-6 shooting, and looks far more engaged than he did in Game 2.
Both Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have three fouls for Boston, which will be something to monitor in the second half. Tatum has 11 points for Celtics, and is their only player in double-figures.
Boston was outscored 26-16 in the 7:12 Tatum sat the bench to end the first half after picking up his third foul. Philadelphia has a 12-3 edge in fast break points, and has scored 10 points on eight Boston turnovers.
Joel Embiid just ended Aron Baynes.
Late in the first half, Ben Simmons pushed the ball, up court, hit a trailing Embiid as he came lumbering down the lane behind him, and the 7-foot-2 center rose up and absolutely demolished Baynes, who futilely tried to get in Embiid’s way when it would have been in his best interest to simply get the hell out of the way.
The result, as the Sixers’ Twitter account happily recounted, was Baynes being posterized in one of many dunks not only in the playoffs, but the entire 2017-18 season.
Big moment for the Celtics, with Jayson Tatum picking up his third foul with more than eight minutes to go in the second quarter.
Tatum, who leads Boston with 11 points, has taken on an even bigger role than he did during the regular season in the wake of Kyrie Irving’s season-ending injury.
His production has helped Boston build a 35-25 lead, as he’s gone 5-for-6 from the field to go with three rebounds and two assists.
Brad Stevens initially left Tatum in the game, but just took him out with seven minutes to go in the first half. Stevens will likely try to keep Tatum on the bench here in hopes of avoiding him picking up a fourth foul before halftime.
Through nine quarters of Sixers-Celtics, Boston Coach Brad Stevens has clearly stuck to a specific strategy: Let Joel Embiid do his thing, and try to limit everyone else.
Embiid already has nine shots early in the second quarter, going 4-for-9 with eight points to go with six rebounds and a blocked shot.
But despite that production, Boston is winning 28-22. Why? Because the rest of the Sixers are 5-for-20, including 2-for-10 from three.
If the Celtics can limit the “others” for the Sixers to those kinds of numbers, they’ll be content with leaving Embiid one-on-one for the rest of the series. He will put up plenty of production that way, but if no one else does, it doesn’t matter.
After Ben Simmons completely flopped in Game 2 of the Sixers’ Eastern Conference semifinal series with the Celtics, all eyes will be on him as the series shifts back to Philadelphia.
The past two days have been spent dissecting everything Simmons did — or, in reality, didn’t do — in his 31 minutes on the court inside TD Garden. He scored one point while going 0-for-4 from the field with five rebounds, seven assists, five turnovers and was a game-worst minus-23, looking lethargic and wasn’t nearly as aggressive as he normally is.
This is a huge moment for Simmons. Philadelphia came into this series as the favorite to advance, given Boston’s myriad injuries. Now, after the Celtics took the first two games and Simmons was a no-show on a national stage, he’ll need to return to the form he’s shown throughout the regular season and the first few games of the playoffs, as opposed to his no-show in Game 2.
If he does, the Sixers can make this a series again, even trailing 2-0. If he doesn’t? Well, Boston will be heading to the Eastern Conference finals.
Boston Celtics 101, Philadelphia 76ers 98 (OT) (Celtics lead, 3-0)
Toronto Raptors at Cleveland Cavaliers (Cavaliers lead 2-0): 8:30 p.m., ABC
Donovan Mitchell on dunk vs. Rockets: ‘I just happened to be up there’
Dragging these flawed Cavs to the NBA Finals would be LeBron James’s most remarkable feat
Charles Barkley apologizes for saying he wanted to punch Draymond Green in the face
Steph Curry comes off bench to vault Warriors to 2-0 lead; Raptors lost a game they had to win
Global Ambassador starts war! Drake and Kendrick Perkins skirmish in Toronto!
NBA Podcast: USA Today’s Sam Amick on the West playoffs, what’s next for Paul George and Portland
Why is there a snake on the Philadelphia 76ers’ court?
Impressive as it was, the Pacers’ Victor Oladipo isn’t satisfied with his breakout season
John Wall wants the Wizards to overhaul their roster. They likely won’t be able to.
The Miami Heat bet big on Hassan Whiteside. It appears they made a mistake. Now what?
The one-and-done rule is on the way out — because of NBA money, not NCAA morals
It feels like the end of an era for the San Antonio Spurs
After first-round sweep, Blazers’ next steps could include trading away their stars
‘All my best games I was medicated’: Matt Barnes on his game-day use of marijuana
Adam Silver: One of the WNBA’s problems is that not enough young women pay attention to it
NBA, Twitch reach deal on 2K League streaming rights
Hop into the comments section below to chat with The Post’s Tim Bontemps about all of your NBA questions.