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A Young Core Carries the Celtics Past the Raptors. But There’s More Work to Do.


And therein lies the cruelty of professional basketball: You live by the bounce and die by the bounce. Last year in a conference semifinal Game 7, the Raptors won by virtue of a fortuitous shot that rimmed in at the last second, beating the Philadelphia 76ers and effectively pushing the Sixers to drastically change their team. On Sunday, when the Raptors needed one more bounce, the plays went the other way.

“We had more to give,” Lowry told reporters. “But, you know, unfortunately, we’re not getting any more now.”

Toronto’s win last year followed by Friday’s elimination laid bare how rare championship runs are — and why it is imperative for the Celtics to take advantage of this opportunity. The league’s dynamics can shift on a dime, a result of player empowerment in free agency and unexpected trade requests.

If you are a glass-half-full type, then you are probably feeling bullish about the Celtics’ chances against the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals, which begin on Tuesday. After all, the Raptors were significantly better than Miami during the regular season. And Hayward is expected to return against Miami.

“We should definitely be hardened,” Stevens said. “We should definitely have a lot more in our toolbox to go back to, but we also have to get ready for a different, more unique team in Miami.”

And Walker — barring an injury — is a better player than he showed against Toronto, against whom he averaged 17 points and six assists on 42 percent shooting.

“These guys saved me all night,” Walker said, referring to his teammates.

But Boston fans are never the glass-half-full types (rather, they often ask, is there anything in the glass?). In that respect, the Celtics are still a work in progress.


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