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ibusinesslines.com May 24, 2017


Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers To Meet In Eastern Conference Finals

20 May 2017, 02:05 | Charlene Valdez

BIGGER CHALLENGE AHEAD

Boston's Al Horford bowls over Washington's Marcin Gortat during the Celtics' 115-105 win in Game 7 of their second-round series

For the Wizards, their Eastern finals drought continues. They offered support as he played in the first round despite his sister's death in a auto accident, and they powered through when Washington evened the second-round series at 2 by effectively containing Thomas' usual scoring punch.

Down just six points, head coach Scott Brooks must have known it was danger time anyway. That came despite the perimeter inconsistency of guard Isaiah Thomas, whose scoring came mostly from forays to the basket.

But Washington also had 15 turnovers, leading to 17 of the Celtics' points.

During the regular season, the Celtics and Cavaliers played thrice, with the Cavaliers winning two of the games.

The Cavs will attempt to win their third consecutive Eastern Conference title and trip to the NBA Finals while it would be the seventh in as many years for LeBron James should Cleveland prevail.

Thomas had 9 points in that stretch for Boston.

James has gotten strong support from point guard Kyrie Irving (23.8 points per game despite struggling with his shooting), and role players Tristan Thompson (10.8 rebounds) and Kyle Korver (48.5 percent on 3-pointers) have done what's required.


The rest of the first half was back-and-forth, with teams exchanging offensive spurts. Washington's dominance allowed its offense to jump out in transition with 10 fast-break points in the first half.

Foul trouble was a big story for the Celtics in the first half as Johnson, Kelly Olynyk and Marcus Smart all went to the half with three fouls.

Trailing 70-64, it was Horford to the rescue again.

Jaylen Brown slapped away a pass for Gortat and then showed his athleticism on the other end, running the floor and converting a lovely reverse layup on a lob feed from Marcus Smart, igniting the crowd again and tying the game, 72-72, with 4:55 left in the third.

As a result, a great night from Bradley Beal was all for naught.

Washington held a four-point lead with just over four minutes remaining in the third quarter, but a 13-3 Celtics run proved crucial. When the Celtics tried to pull away - when Smart was grabbing every rebound and Kelly Olynyk was putting in one bucket after another - Beal wouldn't let his team fade. That mini-push tied things at 72-all, and the Celtics pushed the run out to 30-11, to take a 94-81 advantage early in the fourth quarter.

Washington stayed close as Beal continued to score, including a four-point play. The Celtics have beaten the Wizards nine straight times at TD Garden dating back to 2014. He's the guy who is overshadowing the entire Eastern Conference these days, and has been since he left Cleveland to join the Heat in 2010.



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