BOSTON — Disjointed. Ugly. Scattered.
Sunday night at TD Garden was everything you’d expect from a Game 7 featuring an upstart young team looking to make its first NBA Finals, and a team led by a generational talent not wanting to relinquish its grasp on the conference.
The Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers slugged through Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals, but when all the bricks were done being chucked and the smoke had cleared, the conference crown remained with LeBron James.
Final score: Cavs 87, Celtics 79.
Boston was the better team early on, but the Celtics were unable to extend their lead while the Cavs scuffled and James made the plays down the stretch to send Cleveland to a fourth straight NBA Finals.
James did it all for Cleveland, tallying 35 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists. King James got just enough help from his supporting cast, with Jeff Green scoring 19 and J.R. Smith adding 12.
Jayson Tatum led the Celtics with 24 points and Al Horford chipped in 17. The Cavs win the series 4-3 and advance to the NBA Finals. The Celtics’ season is over.
Here’s how Game 7 went down:
PG: Terry Rozier
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Al Horford
C: Aron Baynes
The Celtics started Game 7 off on fire, jumping out to an 11-4 lead and causing Cavs coach Tyronn Lue to take a timeout 3:41 into the game. Tatum scored seven of the C’s first 11 points, while James had both of the Cavs’ early buckets.
Cleveland responded, though. The Cavs ripped off a 13-2 run to take a 16-15 lead with 3:41 remaining in the opening quarter. James did most of the damage during the run, as he had 12 of the Cavs’ first 16 points.
The Cavs’ lack of scoring outside of James hurt them in the first. Boston closed the period on a 10-2 run to take a 26-18 lead after one.
James paced all scorers with 12. Tatum led the Celtics with nine and Horford added seven.
Boston stretched its lead to open the second quarter. Horford got two baskets, Tatum knocked down a pair of free throws and Marcus Morris splashed a 3-pointer to make it 35-23 with 8:52 left in the half.
While it looked like the C’s might run away early, Boston went 3:35 without a bucket in the middle of the frame which allowed James — with the help of Green and Smith — to cut the lead to 39-37 with 1:45 remaining.
A Brown 3-pointer gave the Celtics a 43-39 lead at halftime. James led all scorers with 17, while Horford paced Boston with 14 and Tatum added 11.
Neither team could find much of a rhythm to open the third quarter, as Boston led 47-44 with 7:20 remaining in the period. The Celtics had a chance to extend their lead early in the frame, but turnovers and missed shots kept the Cavs close, and Smith drained a triple to cause C’s coach Brad Stevens to take a timeout.
The Cavs went on an 11-4 run out of the timeout, capped by a Tristan Thompson dunk to give Cleveland a 55-51 lead.
Oh, and there was this:
Boston tied the game at 56, but James hit a triple to make it 59-56 Cavs after three.
James was the high-man with 23 points. Tatum paced Boston 15.
FIGHT TO THE FINISH
The C’s opened the fourth with a quick 5-0 run, but James responded with a bucket to knot the game at 61.
Both teams continued to struggle from the field in the fourth, as James made a tough layup over Horford to give Cleveland a 71-67 lead with 6:55 remaining.
Tatum answered the James bucket with a personal 5-0 run to give Boston the lead, but Green answered with a triple to edge the Cavs back in front, and Thompson followed with a dunk to make 76-72 with 4:44 to play.
The Cavs held onto a 79-74 edge with two minutes to play. After Rozier missed a wide-open triple, James found George Hill for an easy two to push the lead to seven with 1:16 to play.
James then grabbed a rebound off a Brown miss, went the length of the floor for a layup plus the foul to swell the lead to 10 and all but end Boston’s playoff run.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE GAME
The Celtics’ season is over.