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20 May 2017, 02:05 | Pamela Mathis
BIGGER CHALLENGE AHEAD
Boston advances to the Eastern Conference final, where it will host the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 1 on Wednesday. Boston has had a magical season this far, behind it's 5-foot-9 point guard, Isaiah Thomas.
The Boston Celtics are headed to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2012 after beating the Washington Wizards 115-105 in Game 7 Monday night in TD Garden. Last season, the Celtics lost in the first round to the Atlanta Hawks. The top-seeded Celtics are seeking an 18th NBA championship, and first since beating the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2008 NBA Finals. The Celtics will have their hands full with the Cavaliers, who are healthy and clicking at the right time of the season.
These Celtics aren't short on belief, though, and their confidence has been intensified by a postseason filled with adversity. If it's the Celtics, it will be on the back of a Thomas masterclass.
Then Kelly Olynyk and the bench came up huge in Game 7 against the pesky Wizards. Boston's lone victory in the series came on March 1, with Kevin Love still out after minor left knee surgery.
"We needed it", Olynyk said. He giveth and he taketh away, but he sure does have a habit of pulling out big plays when his club needs them. We outlasted them there. We didn't give up and Kelly was our MVP tonight.
"That says a lot about the team we are and we believe in each other", Thomas said. The play of Thomas has been inspiring for the past month, even as he has slowed down lately, and big man Al Horford has silenced critics with his all-around game. The C's also assisted on seven of their nine shots made.
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Nonetheless, the Celtics will have another chance at handing the defending champions their first 2017 postseason defeat on Friday. Following the game, Stevens said he told his team that each game is worth one, regardless of how many points decide it.
Boston's mettle has been tested.
Washington guard John Wall had 18 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds, but he shot just 8 of 23 from the floor, 1 of 8 from 3-point range. Rust was a problem for the Warriors against the Spurs on Sunday, but the Cavs just have too much talent not to be able to withstand an early Boston lead. From there, J.R. Smith struck Jae Crowder in the face in Game 4 and was suspended.
NOTES: Celtics coach Brad Stevens, who borrowed a Bill Belichick line pregame by telling his players to "do your job", on his team's mindset coming in.
Boston may be opening a new era of basketball relevance, but the last chapter from the Big Three's story isn't quite complete.
Overall, the Celtics' bench outscored the Wizards' bench 48-5. But Boston just can't keep up with the James-led onslaught.
This was a worthy Game 7, a tight, well-fought nerve-wracker that could have gone either way. The Celtics were red-hot and looking to take control of the Eastern Conference. It would also be LeBron James' seventh-straight Finals appearance, as he went with the Miami Heat from 2011-14.
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