Los Angeles Clippers’ Patrick Beverley (21) reacts with teammate Marcus Morris Sr. (31) after being ejected during the second half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game against the Denver Nuggets Saturday, Sept. 5, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The Nuggets won 110-101. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Los Angeles Clippers’ Patrick Beverley (21) reacts with teammate Marcus Morris Sr. (31) after being ejected during the second half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game against the Denver Nuggets Saturday, Sept. 5, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The Nuggets won 110-101. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Swing games: Celtics-Raptors, Nuggets-Clippers all tied up

“We’re playing a little better, it feels like”

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Boston and the Los Angeles Clippers struck first.

Toronto and Denver came back with strong rebuttals.

So, with that, the leads in a pair of knotted-up conference semifinal series will be a reward to the winners on Monday night. Boston and Toronto will play Game 5 of their Eastern Conference series to open the doubleheader, followed by Game 3 of the Western Conference matchup between the Clippers and Nuggets.

The Raptors lost Games 1 and 2 to the Celtics before winning Games 3 and 4. The Nuggets were blown out in Game 1, then never trailed in Game 2 against the Clippers.

“We’re playing a little better, it feels like,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “I think really, as a team and certainly individuals are starting to come back to who we know they are, who they can be.”

The Raptors needed a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from OG Anunoby to win Game 3 and avoid a 3-0 series deficit, then grinded out a win in Game 4. But Celtics coach Brad Stevens isn’t worried about his team’s capability to bounce back after consecutive losses.

“We’ve got a lot of competitive, tough guys in there,” Stevens said. “We’ll play better.”

The Clippers have that same sort of unshaken resolve. They fell in Game 2 on an off night from Kawhi Leonard, who was held to an uncharacteristically low 13 points on 4-for-17 shooting. It’s reasonable to think he’ll be a lot better in Game 3.

“We will be ready for Game 3,” Clippers forward Paul George said. “There’s no pep talks for it. It’s the playoffs. We have to be ready and we have to be a lot stronger, and we’ll be up for the fight and challenge in Game 3.”

Denver coach Michael Malone said he was pleased with the way his team was tougher in Game 2 but noted more changes must come before Game 3.

“Obviously, one area we have to clean up is the offensive rebounds,” Malone said. “We played great defence, but they were able to grab 19 rebounds for 27 points. So if we can defend at the same level and clean up the glass, then we have a chance to really make some headway in this series.”

A look at Monday’s games:

CELTICS VS. RAPTORS

Series tied 2-2. Game 5, 6:30 p.m. EDT, TNT.

— NEED TO KNOW: Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam all played the entire second half of Game 4 for Toronto, and Lowry has been on the floor for about 90 of the last 96 minutes in the series. The Celtics haven’t dropped three straight since mid-January, but the Raptors — who were 1-5 against Boston this season before Games 3 and 4 — seem to have figured something out.

— KEEP AN EYE ON: Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart. They were 6 for 26 from the field in Game 4, 3 for 17 from 3-point range. The Celtics have to believe that they’ll both be better Monday.

— INJURY WATCH: Gordon Hayward (ankle) is quarantining — a required step when someone leaves the bubble — and preparing for a return to the Celtics, but Boston still does not expect him to play in this series.

— PRESSURE IS ON: Still on Toronto. The reigning champions have won two straight to tie the series, but a loss in Game 5 would put them right back on the ropes. Taking a third straight game would put them a game away from a return trip to the conference finals, and Boston would trail a series for the first time in this post-season.

CLIPPERS VS. NUGGETS

Series tied 1-1. Game 3, 9 p.m. EDT, TNT.

— NEED TO KNOW: Denver’s Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Paul Millsap and Gary Harris combined to shoot 13 for 25 from 3-point range, and the Clippers lamented how they let Jokic especially get settled in the opening minutes of Game 2.

— KEEP AN EYE ON: Leonard. Not only was he 4 for 17 in the game, he was 1 for 10 in the final three quarters. He was two assists shy of a triple-double, but the Clippers need him to score.

— INJURY WATCH: George said he thought he had a slight knee hyperextension in the second half of Game 2 but was able to play through it and never left the game. Murray hobbled a bit in the early minutes of Game 2, also finding a way to stick it out. But Sunday, the Nuggets added Jokic (sprained right wrist) to the injury list and said he was questionable for Monday.

— PRESSURE IS ON: The Clippers. Denver got to set the tone for how everything went in Game 2. The Clippers can’t make that mistake again.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Red Deer teacher Janelle Van Tetering had her students write letters to attach to Blankets of Hope, which will be donated to the Mustard Seed. (Contributed photo)
Red Deer teacher, students donate ‘Blankets of Hope’ to those in need

A Red Deer teacher and her students are giving warm blankets and… Continue reading

RCMP have charged a Sylvan Lake man for allegedly defrauding five people of more than $100,000.
Advocate file photo
20-year-old woman killed in collision: Blackfalds RCMP

A 20-year-old woman was killed in a collision on Saturday, says Blackfalds… Continue reading

Patrick Malkin, co-owner of The Granary Kitchen, says he wants the provincial government to lift COVID-19 restrictions that shutdown in-person dining. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Red Deer restaurant owner ‘frustrated’ in-person dining restrictions are still in place

Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced the restrictions won’t yet be eased this past Thursday

As of Friday, Alberta has under 10,000 active COVID-19 cases. (Image courtesy CDC)
Alberta identifies 573 new COVID-19 cases, 13 deaths on Saturday

There are currently 9,727 active cases of the virus in the province

A firetruck sits in front of a home on Harvey Close in Red Deer Saturday afternoon. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
Firefighters respond to Red Deer fire

Red Deer firefighters responded to a blaze in the north part of… Continue reading

Terrance Josephson of the Princeton Posse, at left, and Tyson Conroy of the Summerland Steam clash during a Junior B hockey game at the Summerland Arena in the early spring of 2020. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Test your knowledge of Canada’s national winter sport

A woman injects herself with crack cocaine at a supervised consumption site Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Drug users at greater risk of dying as services scale back in second wave of COVID-19

OTTAWA — Under fluorescent lights, Wendy Muckle surveys the supervised consumption site… Continue reading

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) headquarters Connaught Building is pictured in Ottawa on Monday, Aug. 17, 2020. nbsp; THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Taxpayers’ watchdog sees complaints spike, raising worries about pandemic tax season

OTTAWA — Canada’s taxpayers’ ombudsperson says his office has seen a steep… Continue reading

Wet'suwet'en supporters and Coastal GasLink opponents continue to protest outside the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, February 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
‘We’re still in it’: Wet’suwet’en push forward on rights recognition

Tensions had reached a boiling point over a natural gas pipeline in… Continue reading

An Uber driver's vehicle is seen after the company launched service, in Vancouver, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. Several taxi companies have lost a court bid to run Uber and Lyft off the road in British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Taxi companies lose court bid to quash Uber, Lyft approvals in British Columbia

VANCOUVER — Several Metro Vancouver taxi companies have lost a court bid… Continue reading

Lights on an internet switch illuminate a network cable in an office in Ottawa, Thursday, February 10, 2011. A Federal Court is ordering Canada's internet service providers to block websites for a company that's offering pirated television streaming online. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
‘Deeply disturbing:’ Nunavut internet still slower, more costly than rest of country

IQALUIT, Nunavut — In Nunavut, it’s not unusual for the internet to… Continue reading

RCMP say missing teen Hope Tivendale has been found. (File photo by Advocate staff)
No foul play suspected after burned body of homeless person found in North Vancouver

VANCOUVER — A burned body, believed to be of a homeless person,… Continue reading

The central zone experienced a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases Thursday, rising from 454 to 508 active cases over the past 24 hours, with 10 people in hospital. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Spartan Bioscience says Health Canada has approved its rapid COVID-19 test

TORONTO — An Ottawa company says it’s received approval from Health Canada… Continue reading

Most Read