Celtics advance to take on Cavs

Reuters
Jayson Tatum's go-ahead basket with 22.5 seconds left sent the Boston Celtics back to the NBA Eastern Conference finals with a 114-112 win against the visiting Philadelphia 76ers. 
Reuters
AFP

Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum goes to the basket against the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 5 of their NBA Eastern Conference semifinals at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts, on Wednesday. The Celtics won 114-112 to advance 4-1. 

Jayson Tatum’s go-ahead basket with 22.5 seconds left sent the Boston Celtics back to the NBA Eastern Conference finals with a 114-112 win against the visiting Philadelphia 76ers in Game 5 of their second-round playoff series on Wednesday night.

Tatum had a team-high 25 points, Jaylen Brown scored 24, Terry Rozier added 17 and Al Horford chipped in with 15 for the Celtics, who took a 3-0 lead in the best-of-7 series before losing 92-103 in Philadelphia on Monday.

Boston will face the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers in the conference finals for a second consecutive season. The Celtics are in the East finals in consecutive years for the first time since 1986-87 and 1987-88. The Cavs, who advanced this week by sweeping the Toronto Raptors, eliminated the Celtics in a 5-game series last May.

“I feel like we are more together (than last year),” Rozier said. “Obviously guys been going down all year, and it’s like you never know who’s going to go down. But we found a way, we pulled together. I’m not saying if we’re better or not, but we definitely going back to the Eastern Conference finals, so that’s a blessing.”

Celtics coach Brad Stevens, referring to the team’s success without injured stars Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, “Things haven’t always gone our way, but they’re talented. They’re tough. They fit Boston.”

Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals is in Boston on Monday.

Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid missed a potential game-tying layup with 12.5 seconds left before the 76ers turned the ball over. Rozier made 2 free throws with 9.8 seconds on the clock to make it 113-109, but a JJ Redick 3-pointer with 3.8 ticks left had the 76ers back within a point.

Boston’s Marcus Smart made 1 of 2 free throws with 2.4 seconds left, and Philadelphia turned it over on the inbounds play to seal it.

Embiid finished with 27 points and 12 rebounds, Dario Saric had a playoff-career-high 27 points and 10 boards and Ben Simmons totaled 18 points with 8 rebounds and 6 assists for the 76ers.

Philadelphia, which snapped a 5-year playoff drought this season, was denied its first trip to the conference finals since going to the NBA finals in 2000-01.

Sixers forward Robert Covington said, “Felt like we had more games in us. We had a couple unfortunate bounces of the ball during the game. The momentum was on our side, but they made big plays. Just down the stretch, we felt like we had more basketball to play.”

No team in NBA history has overcome an 0-3 series deficit.

“I was saying it from the jump that this was Game 7,” Boston’s Brown said afterwards. “We treated it as such. We didn’t want to go back to Philly. We didn’t want to keep building their momentum. It was good to get a closeout game here on our home floor.”

Sixers coach Brett Brown called it a hard-fought series, adding, “If we’re going to do anything of significance, we’re always going to have to go through the Boston Celtics. I respect, very much, this organization. I think (Celtics general manager) Danny (Ainge) and Brad are fantastic. You’re always looking over your shoulder and watching how they’ve decided to grow their program.”


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