Celtics turn back short-handed Cavaliers to book third straight East Finals trip

Published May 15, 2024, 10:47 AMPao Ambat

Make that four Eastern Conference Finals appearances in the last five seasons for the Boston Celtics.

Jayson Tatum and the Boston Celtics marched on to their sixth East Finals appearances in the last eight years after closing out the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Another year, another Eastern Conference Finals appearance for Jayson Tatum and the Boston Celtics 

Jayson Tatum dropped a near triple-double, while Al Horford added a double-double, as the Celtics took care of business at home after eliminating the undermanned Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 5, 112-97. Boston closes out the Eastern Conference semifinals series in five games. 

Tatum took off and had 25 points, 10 rebounds, and nine assists as the Celtics eliminated the Cavaliers for the first time in a playoff series since 2010.

Horford added 22 points, 15 rebounds, and five assists including six triples in a turn-back-the-clock showing in 35 minutes of play.

The 17-year veteran also passed LeBron James to become the oldest player in league history to record 20+ PT, 10+ REB, 5+ 3PT, 5+ AST in a playoff game.

Derrick White added 18 markers, while Jrue Holiday and Jaylen Brown added 24 points apiece, as all Boston starters scored in double figures.

With the Cavaliers closing in at 88-85 with 9:32 left in the fourth, the Celtics responded with a 13-2 run to pad the lead to double-digits, 101-87.

Cleveland once again came within striking distance at 103-94 but Holiday buried a much-needed triple to build back Boston’s lead to twin digits, 106-94 with 3:10 ticks left. 

The Celtics once again relied on their outside shooting to fend off the Cavaliers, hitting 19 triples while registering a 52 percent shooting clip and having a 43-28 rebounding edge.

Boston now awaits the winner of the New York Knicks-Indiana Pacers series.

Meanwhile, Evan Mobley collected a playoff career-high 33 points while Marcus Morris had a season-high 25 in a losing effort for the Cavaliers, who lost three straight games after stealing one on the road in Game 2.

Already without a handful of key players in All-Star Donovan Mitchell (calf), center Jarrett Allen (rib), and key reserve Caris LeVert (knee), Cleveland kept it close against Boston in the first three quarters before falling short.

With the loss, the Cavalier now enters a summer of uncertainty with the futures of Mitchell and head coach J.B. Bickerstaff in the spotlight.

Mitchell was the primary offensive weapon of Cleveland in the regular season and especially in the playoffs, averaging close to 30 points in the postseason but didn’t play in the final two games.

The former University of Louisville is eligible to sign a contract extension for the Cavaliers, but has not given any indication that he’s eager to stay or leave Cleveland.

Bickerstaff is completing his fourth full season as Cleveland’s coach and is 170-159 with two playoff appearances for the squad.