By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — After another thrilling win, the Boston Celtics are moving on to the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Celtics gutted out another dramatic victory over the Philadelphia 76ers, 114-112, in Game 5 on Wednesday, and will now face LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers for a trip to the NBA Finals. Game 1 is set for Sunday in Boston.
As for Wednesday’s deciding Game 5, it was one for the ages that came down to the final moments of the fourth quarter. Marcus Smart put back a Jayson Tatum miss with a minute left to tie the game at 109-109, and Tatum absorbed a hit and put in a layup with 22.5 seconds left to put Boston ahead 111-109. The Boston defense swarmed Joel Embiid at the other end, and Terry Rozier knocked a rebound off the Philly big man’s knee to give the ball back to Boston with 10.8 seconds remaining. Rozier was fouled and hit a pair of free throws to push Boston’s lead to 113-109, but J.J. Redick drained a three for Philadelphia to make it a 113-112 game with 3.8 seconds left.
Smart was fouled on the ensuing inbound, and missed his first freebie. He tried to miss the second on purpose but made it, but then sealed the win for Boston by picking off Ben Simmons’ court-long pass. The sequence was Marcus Smart in a nutshell. He finished with 14 points, six rebounds, six assists and three steals in his 33 minutes off the bench.
Tatum was sensational and led the way for Boston with 25 points, the seventh straight game the rookie has scored 20 or more for the Celtics. Jaylen Brown had 24 points on 10-for-13 shooting, with Rozier adding 17 points of his own.
“This was Game 7 and we treated it as such,” Brown said after the win. “It was good to get a close-out game on our home floor.”
The game started as a back-and-forth affair with 17 lead changes and seven ties in the first half. But Boston went on a 19-6 run before the break, closing the second quarter with eight straight points on a three by center Aron Baynes, a nice deuce by Tatum and a buzzer beater by Terry Rozier.
The Celtics went into the half with a 61-52 lead. Tatum missed just one of his seven shots and had 14 points at the break.
Brown scored the first five points of the second half for the Celtics, including a second-chance three to give Boston a 10-point lead.
But the 76ers did not go away, racing to a 19-9 run during their 30-point third quarter. Philadelphia had Boston’s lead down to one, 83-82, heading into the fourth thanks to a huge third quarter by Embiid, who powered his way to 11 points and 5 rebounds in the frame.
Philadelphia led by four early in the fourth quarter after Dario Saric made a nice move under the basket following a Rozier turnover. It was Rozier’s first turnover in the fourth quarter of the playoffs.
But then Al Horford helped spark a 10-0 Celtics run. After the C’s big man hit two straight buckets, he swiped the ball from Saric which started a 3-on-2 for Boston. Rozier went coast-to-coast and finished with a nice finger roll to put Boston up 100-94 with 5:27 left.
That lead wouldn’t hold, as Philadelphia ripped off a 11-2 run. Saric drained a three and then fed Simmons down low on the 76ers’ next possession to put Philly up 105-102 with 2:58 to go. Saric beat Smart on a nice up-and-over to push Philadelphia’s lead to 109-105.
But a Tatum to Horford alley-oop electrified the TD Garden crowd and the Celtics, setting up the dramatic final minute. Horford was his veteran self with 15 points and eight rebounds.
With such young teams, the Celtics and 76ers are going to have plenty more battles in the future.
“If we’re ever going to do anything of any significance, we’re going to have to go through the Boston Celtics,” Philadelphia head coach Brett Brown said after the game.
“They’re going to be good for a long time,” Stevens said of Philly. “I don’t take these situations for granted.”
If this series was a preview of the future, NBA fans are in for a treat over the next decade.