The Celtics Closed Out A Scrappy Cavs Team In Game 5 To Reach Another Conference Finals

The Boston Celtics are headed to the Eastern Conference Finals for the sixth time in eight years. After finishing the year with the NBA’s best record, the Celtics polished off the Miami Heat in five games and moved on to face the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round. After once again splitting the first two games in Boston, the Celtics were able to win both games in Cleveland, outlasting a banged up Cavs team to set up a closeout situation in Boston on Wednesday night.

With Donovan Mitchell, Jarrett Allen, and Caris LeVert all out with injury for Cleveland, the Celtics were heavy favorites to cruise to a win, but it turned out to be a much more difficult closeout situation than most anyone expected. Despite missing three key players, the Cavs came out and were game from the jump. Marcus Morris Sr., who had seven points all series coming in, doubled that total in the first half, while Darius Garland, Max Strus, and Evan Mobley combined for 26 points to give Cleveland the offensive lift it needed to not just hang around in the first half, but take the lead late in the second quarter.

The Celtics were able to close the half strong, as Derrick White was their best player in the half, scoring 15 points in the first two quarters and hitting some big shots while the stars got settled.

Jayson Tatum then finished the half with a flurry, getting a breakaway dunk off an Al Horford steal and then hit a three to close the half and give Boston a six-point cushion.

The Cavs would get the lead back down to one, but Boston finally looked like they were ready to snuff out Cleveland’s hopes as they went on a run to open up a double-digit lead.

However, the Cavs kept competing, with Mobley and Morris playing extremely well to keep Cleveland attached.

Ultimately, much like in Games 3 and 4, the Celtics were just too good for the Cavs to keep up with, even with Boston not firing on all cylinders. Every time Cleveland would go on a mini-run in the fourth quarter, the Celtics found an answer to push the lead back out to double digits, eventually polishing off a 113-96 win.

The Cavs gave an inspired effort considering the circumstances, with Mobley putting up his best game of the playoffs (and really of his playoff career) with 31 points on 14-of-23 shotoing, seven rebounds, two steals, and two blocks. Morris added 25 off the bench, but without Mitchell, they did not get enough from their backcourt in the second half, as Garland and Strus combined for just 5 points in the final 24 minutes. Going forward, Cleveland will face a very interesting offseason, with some decisions to be made about this core and who should be a part of it long-term.

For the Celtics, it was again not their prettiest performance, but they did what was needed to get the win and advance to the conference finals. All five starters reached double figures, with Tatum leading the way with 25 points, 10 rebounds, and nine assists. Al Horford gave a huge lift with 22 points and 15 rebounds, and Derrick White added 18 points and six assists, with most of his damage coming in the first half. It may not have been a dominant performance from Boston, but they showed in the fourth quarter they have that gear they can get to when needed, as they finally were able to put their foot on Cleveland’s neck.

Without Kristaps Porzingis, they’re not at their best on either end, but still are a talented two-way group and proved that again this series. If they can get him back and find that next level, they’ll undoubtedly be a formidable title contender.