Celtics advance to East finals for third straight year

Jayson Tatum scored 25 points as the Boston Celtics overpowered the injury-hit Cleveland Cavaliers 113-98 to book their place in the Eastern Conference finals for the third straight year.

The top-seeded Celtics won the series 4-1, yet they were pushed all the way by a battling Cleveland team.

The Cavs' hopes of clawing their way back into the best-of-seven series were rocked before the game as three of their top six players -- Donovan Mitchell, Jarrett Allen and Caris LeVert -- were confirmed to be out with injury.

But Cleveland shrugged off that setback to produce a battling performance that saw them get within three points of the Celtics midway through the fourth quarter.

Evan Mobley was superb for Cleveland, pouring in a game-high 33 points while Marcus Morris Sr. added 25 off the bench.

Yet just when Celtics fans at the TD Garden were nervously wondering if a shock defeat was on the cards, Boston stitched together a decisive 13-2 run -- crowned by a three-pointer from Tatum -- that left them ahead by 14 points at 101-87.

Tatum, who also added 10 rebounds and nine assists, said Boston had prepared for a dogfight despite Cleveland's injury-stricken line-up.

"Anybody who's played in this league understands what happens when somebody's best players are out," Tatum said. "The rest of the guys have more freedom. They play with a different level of confidence and they play different.

"Our mindset coming into this game was 'However long it takes, that's how long it takes'. We didn't expect to win the game in the first or second quarter. We grinded it out."

Tatum said Boston were now determined to snap their dismal recent record in the Eastern Conference finals. Boston have lost in the Eastern Conference finals in four of five appearances since the 2016-2017 season.

The superstar forward was one of six Boston players to finish in double figures. Al Horford shrugged off his recent struggles to post 22 points and 15 rebounds, while Derrick White scored 18.

The Celtics will face either the New York Knicks or the Indiana Pacers for a place in the NBA Finals. (AFP)

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