This was the Jayson Tatum the Celtics were banking on.
The player so many viewed as potentially one of the best players in the NBA still had something to prove: That he could put a team on his back in an elimination postseason game in the same fashion of the true greats. Well, Friday night Tatum answered the bell.
The 22-year-old did a little bit of everything, including give the Celtics a presence the Raptors had no answer for down the stretch. The result was a 92-87 win for Brad Stevens' team.
Tatum's effort couldn't be punctuated, however, until the final seconds.
Tatum (29 points, 12 rebounds) got a key rebound off a second straight missed free throw by Grant Williams with 35 seconds left. It resulted in a free throw from the C's star, putting his team up three.
Williams, who was in the game after Daniel Theis fouled out, redeemed himself by effectively contesting a Fred VanVleet 3-pointer, paving the way to Kemba Walker's decisive two free throws with eight seconds left.
The Celtics will now play the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals in best-of-seven series that will begin Tuesday night.
Tatum led the fourth-quarter charge for the Celtics after a back-and-forth first three quarters had resulted in a one-point C’s advantage heading into the fourth.
It wasn’t just Tatum, either.
The other star-in-the-making Jaylen Brown also did his part while Kemba Walker was still trying to find his way through the Raptors’ box-and-one.
And then there was Marcus Smart, who supplied the Celtics with a boatload of Marcus Smart things when it counted the most. Perhaps his most important contribution came on a block of Norman Powell as the Raptors guard was looking to tie the game with just under a minute to go.