Celtics vs. Cavaliers score, takeaways: Boston eliminates Cleveland, heads back

The Boston Celtics are heading back to the Eastern Conference finals in the 2024 NBA playoffs. The Celtics eliminated the Cleveland Cavaliers with a 113-98 win in Game 5 of their second-round series on Wednesday night. It’s the third consecutive Eastern Conference finals appearance for the Celtics and their sixth in eight seasons.

The Cavs were without leading scorer Donovan Mitchell (calf injury) for the second game in a row, and they were also without Caris LeVert (knee) — who started the Game 4 loss in Mitchell’s place. The Cavs hung tough, leading in the first half and staying within striking distance until midway in the fourth quarter when Boston pulled away.

The Celtics shot 52.5% from the floor and knocked in 19 3-pointers. While Jaylen Brown (11 points) had a quiet game, the Celtics had six different players score in double figures.

Like Game 4 without Mitchell, the Celtics were not as dominant as expected, but the win improved them to 8-2 this postseason. The East’s No. 1 seed now awaits the winner of the Knicks vs. Pacers series in the conference finals.

Here are three takeaways from the series-clinching Game 5.

The ageless Al Horford

Everyone talks about LeBron James and Stephen Curry as longevity freaks but let’s not forget about Al Horford, who is in his 17th season and about to turn 38 and was just the best player on the floor in the closeout game for the Celtics.

Horford finished with 25 points, 15 rebounds and five assists. He hit six 3-pointers. He blocked three shots, saved a ball flying out of bounds and had Darius Garland bottled up on the perimeter all night when he found himself switched onto the speedy guard. Just an incredible effort from one of the NBA’s forgotten ageless wonders.

Tatum nears triple-double

Tatum finished one assist shy of a triple-double with 25 points, 10 rebounds, 9 assists and 4 steals. My favorite possession of the might was when the shot clock was winding down and Tatum was pinned in the corner with Evan Mobley on him. He could’ve settled for a step-back 3 and blamed the low clock, but he used every second at his disposal to cross Mobley over and beat him baseline for an acrobatic finish.

Tatum not settling for contested jumpers when he doesn’t need to makes him an even bigger problem than he is but on natural scoring talent. For the most part, he played aggressive downhill in this game and got his jumpers on his terms, which will become increasingly important against whoever the Celtics face in the conference finals and potentially the Finals.

Shout out to Marcus Morris

Morris scored seven points over 30 meaningless minutes through the first three games of this series, and he didn’t get off the bench in Game 4.

With Donovan Mitchell, Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen all out for the Cavs, Morris dusted himself off in Game 5 and came out firing with 25 points on 10-of-13 shooting. He cashed five 3-pointers in 34 minutes, combining with Evan Mobley, who poured in 33, for almost 60% of Cleveland’s 98 points.

These two shots were huge in keeping Cleveland attached to Boston late in the third as the Celtics just could not pull away.

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