Coming into game five, Al Horford did not make a three in two and a half games. After being inserted into the starting lineup with Kristaps Porzingis going down with a calf injury, the 37-year-old looked worn down.

Last night, he became the first player in NBA history with over 20 points, 15 rebounds, five or more threes, and three blocks in a playoff game. So much for father time.

“Tonight you saw his gift: passion, inspiration, toughness, and competitive nature,” Celtics Head Coach Joe Mazzula commented after the game on his center’s performance.

While the Celtics should be grateful for Horford’s herculean effort, they did not expect to need it. Three Cleveland starters were injured last night as Donovan Mitchell, Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen did not play in game five. The Celtics were favored by -16 points at home, and fans expected last night to be a coronation into the conference finals.

Subscribe to our free weekly newsletter!

A week of sports news in your in-box.
We find the sports news you need to know, so you don't have to.

With their back against the wall, Cleveland did not roll over.

Former Celtic Marcus Morris Sr. played his heaviest minutes of the series with the litany of Caviler holdouts and started the first quarter on fire. He scored seven points, as he and Max Strus combined for half of Cleveland’s opening quarter 28 points. Both teams were tied going into the second quarter, but the Celtics began to put distance between the two sides. Horford knocked down two of his six threes in the frame, and Jayson Tatum hit his second triple of the night as the Celtics took a six-point lead into the half.

Like they did in game four, Boston’s offense exploded at the beginning of the third quarter. Mazzula’s men ripped off a 10-0 run in less than two minutes as their lead swelled to 12. Tatum and Horford scored or assisted on eight of those points as their scoring started to break through the Cavs’ stingy defense.

However, similar to the previous game, Cleveland did not let the game get out of reach. Evan Mobley, who has been a thorn in the Celtics’ armor the whole series, scored 13 of his 33 points in the third, as the Cavaliers faced only a single-digit deficit entering the fourth. Morris Sr. made his fourth long ball to start the frame, and the Celtics had only a slender three-point advantage with ten minutes to go in the game.

Then, the avalanche came.

The Celtics bombarded Clevland with 11 points in under two minutes. Derrick White, Horford and Tatum each hit a three as their lead swelled to 14 with six minutes to go. In total, the Celtics hit 64% of their shots in the final frame and assisted on ten of their 11 makes during the quarter. What started as a competitive game ended as a Boston blowout as the Celtics vanquished Cleveland 113-98 and moved on to the penultimate round of the playoffs. Along with Horford, Tatum proved his superstar status, finishing with 25 points, ten rebounds and nine assists.

Each team faced questions after the series ended. Cleveland faces a long off-season with roster changes. Mitchell can sign an extension this summer, but it might mean the end for Darius Garland since they are both small ball-dependent guards. Rumors swirled postgame that the Cavs may also choose to move on from head coach J.B. Bickerstaff, as the team may need a new voice.

The Celtics now await their next opponent. Should the Knicks win on Friday, Boston would play New York in game one of the ECF on Sunday. If Indiana forces a game seven, the new series would begin on Tuesday.

Read more about:

Leave a comment

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.

Listen to the uInterview Podcast!
Get the most-revealing celebrity conversations with the uInterview podcast!