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Oklahoma State in NBA: Marcus Smart propels Celtics to Eastern Conference Finals

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The former Cowboy’s block with less than a minute remaining was the most memorable play of Game 7 against the Raptors.

Boston Celtics v Toronto Raptors - Game Seven Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

The Celtics, who have played in more Game 7s than any franchise in NBA history, improved to 24-9 in the winner-take-all game thanks to former Oklahoma State standout Marcus Smart’s performance in a 92-87 victory against the Raptors on Friday night.

Boston has seen several great performances in Game 7s: Bill Russell poured in 30 points and 40 rebounds (1962 NBA Finals), Tommy Heinsohn dropped 37 points and 23 rebounds (1957 NBA Finals), John Havlicek “stole the ball” (1965 Eastern Finals) and Paul Pierce scored 41 points (2008 Eastern Conference Semifinals) to end LeBron James’ first stint in Cleveland. Smart’s Game 7 performance against Toronto is up there with all of those performances.

Smart had 16 points (6-for-15) and six assists. Without his defensive play, Boston might not be moving on to the Eastern Conference Finals against the Heat. He finished the block of the year on Norman Powell with the Celtics clinging to an 89-87 lead with just 58 seconds left. Grant Williams drew a foul on Kyle Lowry on the other end, fouling Lowry out of the game with 35 seconds remaining and the Celtics held on for the win.

Smart will likely be tasked with guarding Jimmy Butler when Jaylen Brown is on the bench. When Brown and Smart share the court, Smart will be chasing one of Miami’s many shooters around the perimeter.

One of those shooters will be one of Smart’s former Boston teammates in Jae Crowder. Crowder and former Celtic Kelly Olynyk were both on the 2017 team led by Isaiah Thomas that made it to the Eastern Conference Finals. It will be interesting to watch Smart matchup with Crowder, someone he played against often in practice his first few years in the NBA.

As for the reigning champions, Smart had some thoughts following Game 7. He has anointed himself and the Celtics the Kings of the North, and for good reason. It was a hard-fought series, but the Celtics never trailed in the series and sent the No. 2 seed packing.

Smart and the Celtics will start the best-of-seven Eastern Conference Finals against the Heat on Sept. 15. It’s the third trip to the Eastern final in four years for Boston, which fell to the Cavaliers in five and seven games in 2017 and 2018, respectively, in its past two appearances. The Celtics also fell to the Heat in seven games in the 2012 Eastern final. Boston hasn’t made the NBA Finals since 2010 when they fell in seven games to the Lakers, and the Celtics haven’t won the NBA title since they beat the Lakers in six games in 2008.