Celtics beats Cavaliers to return to Eastern Conference Finals

BOSTON — The Boston Celtics, behind 25 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists from Jayson Tatum, defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 113-98 in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series on Wednesday night, advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals for the third straight season. .

The Celtics earned their sixth trip to the Eastern Conference Finals in eight years, the second time they have accomplished the feat (also 1980-88) and join the Philadelphia 76ers (1977-85), Los Angeles Lakers (1980-91), Chicago Bulls (1989-98), Detroit Pistons (2003-08), and Golden State Warriors (2015-22) have been doing so since the NBA went to a two-conference format in the 1970-71 season.

Boston now awaits the winner of the other Eastern Conference semifinal between the New York Knicks and Indiana Pacers, which New York leads 3-2 heading into Friday’s Game 6 in Indianapolis, with the conference finals scheduled to begin at TD Garden either Sunday afternoon or afternoon. Tuesday night.

However, for most of the first half Wednesday night, it looked like that might not be the case, despite Cleveland playing without star guard Donovan Mitchell (left calf strain); Goalkeeper Caris LeVert (left knee bone bruise), Mitchell’s replacement in the starting lineup in Game 4; And starting center Jarrett Allen, who missed his eighth straight game due to a rib bruise.

Cleveland led for parts of the first half — mainly behind a strong shooting performance from former Celtic Marcus Morris, who scored 14 points on 6-for-8 shooting in the first 24 minutes — before Boston eventually took a 58-52 lead. Leads to half the time.

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It was the latest example of how the Celtics have played very differently at home than they have on the road over the past few playoffs. Entering Wednesday’s game, Boston was 14-14 at TD Garden since the start of the 2022 playoffs — the most games played (28) without a winning record at home over three seasons in NBA history, according to Stats & Info. ESPN. That includes dropping Game 2 of Boston’s first-round series against the Miami Heat and this series against Cleveland despite both opponents losing key contributors to injuries.

On the road, Boston is undefeated (4-0) in these playoffs and 18-7 overall over the past three seasons.

After a slow start, Boston finally found some traction — and some energy in its home crowd — behind several fast-paced performances from Al Horford, who was just two weeks away from his 38th birthday and in the middle of his 17th NBA season. . After shooting 4-for-22 from 3-point range over the first four games of the series, including 0-for-10 in both games in Cleveland, Horford scored six points in Game 5, repeatedly keeping the play alive with his energy. .

Horford also frequently defended Cavaliers guard Darius Garland in isolation, especially in the fourth quarter, where he played a role in holding Garland — who scored 30 points in Game 4 — to 11 points on 4-for-17 shooting and 9 assists on Wednesday. Horford was substituted for the final time in the final minute to a standing ovation.

Cleveland held on thanks to a great game from Evan Mobley, who had his best offensive game to date by scoring 33 points on 15-for-24 shooting, along with Morris, who scored seven total points in the first four games of the season. She finished the series game five with 25 points on 10-for-13 shooting.

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But after Morris hit a triple with 10:59 remaining in the fourth to cut the Celtics’ lead to 86-83, Boston responded with a 15-4 run over the next four minutes, capped by Tatum’s jumper with 6:45 remaining. That put the Celtics up by 14 and sent the crowd roaring.

From there, Boston’s lead never got shorter than nine, and the game essentially ended when Tatum hit Jrue Holiday under the basket for a wide-open layup with 2:15 left to push the lead to 14, getting the party started for Boston. For another trip to the NBA quarterfinals.

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