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Published Time: 16.05.2024 - 05:05:16 Modified Time: 16.05.2024 - 05:05:16

"And at the end of the day, you just got to keep going ... continue to chip away at the things you can control." Cavs, Donovan Mitchell



Jayson Tatum has 25 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists as the Celtics eliminate the Cavaliers in Game 5 with a 113-98 win. (2:16)

"Close-out games are tough. It's a level of stress, anxiety, desperation; it takes what it takes," Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said. "You got to play 48 -- hopefully, maybe more at times.

"And at the end of the day, you just got to keep going ... continue to chip away at the things you can control."

Boston now awaits the winner of the other Eastern Conference semifinal between the New York Knicks and Indiana Pacers, which New York leads 3-2 heading into Friday's Game 6 in Indianapolis, with the conference finals set to begin at TD Garden either Sunday afternoon or Tuesday night.

"It just shows the character of the team, the organization," Tatum said of Boston advancing to the conference finals for the fifth time in his seven NBA seasons. " might think that it's a given that we're supposed to be here, but I give a lot of credit to everyone in the front office, the coaching staff, the trainers, the guys that hand out the equipment, the ball boys, the cooks, the chefs, the security team. We're all in this together. I do, I mean that.

"Everybody has an effect on each other, and we all impact each other to help winning and build this culture that we have. Everybody should be proud of themselves. Obviously, it's not the end all, be all. We want to win a championship, but we're doing something right."

For much of the first half Wednesday night, however, it looked like that might not be the case, despite Cleveland playing without Mitchell (left calf strain); guard Caris LeVert (left knee bone bruise), Mitchell's replacement in the starting lineup in Game 4; and starting center Jarrett Allen, who missed his eighth straight game because of a bruised rib.

Cleveland led for chunks of the first half -- mainly behind a red-hot shooting performance from former Celtic Marcus Morris Sr., who had 14 points on 6-for-8 shooting in the opening 24 minutes -- before Boston eventually took a 58-52 lead into halftime.

It was the latest example of how the Celtics have played wildly differently at home compared to on the road over the past few playoffs. Entering Wednesday's action, Boston had gone 14-14 at TD Garden since the start of the 2022 playoffs -- the most games played (28) without a winning record at home over three postseasons in NBA history, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. That includes dropping Game 2 of both Boston's first-round series against the Miami Heat and this series against Cleveland despite both opponents missing key contributors because of injuries.

Eventually, though, Boston was able to get some traction after that slow start -- and inject some energy into its home crowd -- behind several hustle plays from Horford, who is just a couple of weeks shy of his 38th birthday and in the middle of his 17th NBA season. After shooting 4-for-22 from 3-point range over the first four games of the series, including 0-for-10 in the two games in Cleveland, Horford hit six in Game 5, and he repeatedly kept plays alive with his energy.

"It feels great because we won," said Horford, who finished with 22 points, 15 rebounds and 5 assists in 35 minutes. "That's the only satisfaction I get out of it.

"Joe talked us taking the challenge defensively, individually, and this was one of those nights that we had to -- as a man, we had to look in the mirror and step up and try to do our best," Horford said of the challenge of slowing down Garland late in the game. "And for me, it was just trying to do whatever I could and use my lengths and just staying solid, and just continuing to take on that challenge time after time."

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