The Boston Celtics defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 113-98 in Game 5 Wednesday night to win the series and advance to the Eastern Conference Final. Boston has advanced this far in six of the last eight seasons and is heavily favored to go even further this year.

It would be a disservice to the Celtics’ performance in the first two rounds to say that they’ve had an easy road, but it can be said that the team has not wasted time on inferior opponents. The Miami Heat, an extremely familiar playoff rival for Boston, had to compete in the first round without star player Jimmy Butler. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers were heavy underdogs going into their series, eventually losing team leader Donovan Mitchell to injury. Both teams only lasted five games against Boston.

Boston has yet to be tested in their conference, but at this point, it would have been surprising if the team had met any resistance. With a staggering 64-18 record in the regular season, the Celtics towered over all their conference rivals by at least 14 games. They were presumed to be the best in the conference by a wide margin, and thus far, they have certainly looked the part.

Celtics lead scorer Jayson Tatum has played the superstar role on a star-studded team this postseason. The 26-year-old forward scored 20 points or more in eight-ten games while averaging 10.4 rebounds. Despite his performance, Tatum said Wednesday that it takes more than one person for a team to make it look this easy.

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“People 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,” Tatum said. “We’re all in this together. I do, I mean that.”

Jaylen Brown has been Boston’s supporting star in name only this postseason, as he has also competed at an elite level alongside Tatum. He scored more than 20 points per game in both series and established himself well around the rim. 

Boston had to compete against Cleveland without big man Kristaps Porzingis, who sustained an injury in the first round. Porzingis has been a revelatory addition to the Celtics this season, providing much-needed paint presence for a team that was already lethal from beyond the arc. Getting an early series win over the Cavs could give him enough time to return for the Eastern Conference Final against the Knicks or Pacers.

In recent years, the Celtics have come to be known as postseason disappointments, as the team has consistently been labeled a contender before falling short. Despite those six conference final appearances since 2017, the team has just one Finals appearance. So far this year, however, Boston has steamrolled its conference rivals and only needs one more series win to finally clear that hurdle again.

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