Jayson Tatum’s go-ahead basket with 22.5 seconds left sent the Boston Celtics back to the Eastern Conference finals with a 114-112 win against the visiting Philadelphia 76ers in Game 5 of their second-round playoff series Wednesday night.
Tatum had a team-high 25 points, Jaylen Brown scored 24, Terry Rozier added 17 and Al Horford scored 15 for the Celtics, who took a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series before losing 103-92 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 five-game series last May.
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“I feel like we 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 injures stars Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, “Things haven’t always gone our way, but they’re talented. They’re tough. They fit Boston.”
Philadelphia, which snapped a five-year playoff drought this season, was denied its first trip to the conference finals since going to the NBA Finals in the 2000-01 season.
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.”
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