Celtics seeking validation against Cavaliers in East finals


Thanks to his out-of-nowhere performance, the Celtics advanced to the Eastern Conference playoffs a day before the NBA Draft Lottery, where they have the best chance of landing the No1 pick.

Olynyk was nothing short of fantastic in treating Game 7 like it was the most important game of his basketball life, tallying a career-high 26 points in helping Boston come away with a 115-105 win that sends them to the Eastern Conference Finals where they will host the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers with Game 1 on Wednesday at the TD Garden.

Bradley Beal (who finished with a game-high 38 points) came up with a four-point play to cut the deficit to four, yet they were never able to get any closer.

But this Wizards team needed both of its two-headed backcourt in order to overcome Isaiah Thomas and the raucous crowd, and Wall looked gassed as the Boston Celtics pulled away with an 18-2 run that began late in the third quarter and carried over into the fourth in their 115-105 victory. Boston has had a magical season this far, behind it’s 5-foot-9 point guard, Isaiah Thomas.

And then there’s Marcus Smart, a 28 percent regular season 3-point shooter who is shooting a respectable 36 percent in the postseason – the sudden discovery of his 3-point shot has to be respected by defenses now, which opens up more space on the court for the Celtics’ better shooters – shooters Smart will find.

“Everybody gave it their best and it turned out for us tonight”, added the 26-year-old Canadian power forward. “But we kept going and stayed the course”.

All the Cavs did was deliver a 23-point beatdown, a game whose final score was not indicative of just how much a blowout the game was. It was Olynyk, and not Thomas, who took over in the fourth quarter with 14 points – and it wasn’t just wide-open jumpers and 3s.

“Kelly was the MVP tonight”, Thomas said, after he himself tallied 29 points to go along with a game-high 12 assists.

From there, the Celtics could taste the Eastern Conference finals and weren’t about to let the opportunity slip away. We played them four times. They will try undersized Avery Bradley, and the Cavs will get James into isolation in those situations. Wall made only 1-of-8 three-point attempts and stumbled with three turnovers. The play resulted in an injury to Love that forced him from the game. Marcin Gortat struggled to chase him outside, and somehow even Markieff Morris couldn’t hold him down in the post.

“That says a lot about the team we are and we believe in each other”, Thomas said. The Celtics have the best odds at the No. 1 overall pick in Tuesday’s National Basketball Association draft lottery, part of a bountiful return from when they traded Pierce and Garnett to the Brooklyn Nets in ’13. Everyone thinks the Cavs are going to maul the Celtics. It’s the Celtics first appearance in the conference finals since 2012.

The Wizards came up short of becoming the first team in this matchup to win on the opponent’s home floor in 2016-17.

“Been here before, so we have to be smart”, he said.

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