The Celtics Survived An Inspired Cavs Effort To Move One Win Away From The Conference Finals

The Boston Celtics are one win away from yet another appearance in the conference finals. Despite getting the best possible effort from a shorthanded Cleveland Cavaliers team that did not have the services of Donovan Mitchell or Jarrett Allen due to injury, Boston was able do enough to pick up a 109-102 win to take a commanding 3-1 series lead.

Despite the fact that they entered the game without a pair of starters, Cleveland battled in the opening 12 minutes of the game. The Cavs raced off to an 8-2 start, which forced an early timeout from Joe Mazzulla to rally the troops.

But then, Boston found its rhythm, while Cleveland went ice cold. The Celtics ripped off a 19-2 run that put them up by double-figures and gave them just enough cushion whenever the Cavaliers were able to put together a quick burst. Behind Jayson Tatum’s best quarter of the playoffs — he had 16 points on 6-for-9 shooting — Boston was able to take a 37-30 lead into the second.

The Celtics were able to get their lead up to as many as 13 points early on in the second quarter before they went cold and the Cavs got hot. The home team went on a 13-3 run, which got the Boston lead down to two points. They kept chipping throughout the period, but while they were able to cut the lead to one, the Celtics always were able to find an answer, usually in the form of a Tatum bucket, as he scored the final seven points in the frame for Boston.

It was enough for the Celtics to head into the locker room at halftime with a 62-57 lead, with Tatum’s 23 points leading the way. Boston got additional contributions from Jaylen Brown, who had 11 points, and Jrue Holiday, who closed the first half with 10 points, five rebounds, five assists, and three steals. Max Strus was the top scorer for Cleveland with 15 points on 5-for-6 shooting from three, with Caris LeVert going for 12 and Darius Garland having 11 points and five assists. As a team, the went 11-for-25 from behind the three-point line.

The Cavs continued to chip away early in the third quarter, going on an 8-2 run at the start of the frame. And at the 9:24 mark of the period, Garland finally gave Cleveland the lead when he blew by Derrick White, got to the rim, and converted a layup.

But Boston was able to, once again, settle down after the Cavaliers threw their best punch. Right after Cleveland pulled ahead, the Celtics ripped off seven points in a row to regain their lead, and for essentially the remainder of the quarter, they were able to make sure things were never any closer than a two-possession game. And after five straight points by Payton Pritchard over the final 39 seconds, Boston took a 10-point lead into the fourth.

The Cavs players outside of Garland went ice cold to start the final frame, while the Celtics were able to extend their lead to as many as 15 points. And then the switch flipped, as Cleveland went on a 12-2 run that got the lead all the way down to five. But try as they might, the Cavaliers just could not get any closer, as any look they generated to make it a one-possession game came up short.

And then, with 1:09 left, Brown got a wide open look from behind the three-point line that served as the dagger.

The Jays did the heavy lifting for Boston, as Tatum had 33 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, two steals, and a block on the evening while Brown went for 27 points and eight rebounds. Holiday stuffed the stat sheet as well, with 16 points, seven rebounds, five assists, three steals, and a block. A 30-point, 7-assist night for Garland led the way for the Cavs, with both Mobley and LeVert scoring 19 points.

Now, Boston has the chance to take care of business on their home floor and earn a berth in the Eastern Conference Finals. Game 5 between the Cavaliers and the Celtics will take place on Monday night at 7 p.m. EST on TNT.