NBA: Boston Celtics clamp down on Cleveland Cavaliers, take 3-2 series edge

Boston Celtics' Jayson Tatum attempts a layup during 
game five of the Eastern conference finals of the 2018 NBA Playoffs against the Cleveland Cavaliers at TD Garden in Boston on May 23, 2018.
Boston Celtics' Jayson Tatum attempts a layup during game five of the Eastern conference finals of the 2018 NBA Playoffs against the Cleveland Cavaliers at TD Garden in Boston on May 23, 2018.PHOTO: REUTERS/USA TODAY SPORTS

BOSTON (REUTERS) - Rookie Jayson Tatum scored 24 points and grabbed seven rebounds as the Boston Celtics defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 96-83 on Wednesday night (May 23) to take a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Jaylen Brown added 17 points, Al Horford had 15 points and 12 boards and both Marcus Morris and Marcus Smart scored 13 for Boston. The Celtics have earned all three of their wins this series at home, where they are 10-0 in the play-offs.

LeBron James finished with 26 points, 10 rebounds and five assists for Cleveland, though he committed six turnovers. Kevin Love had 14 points and seven boards for the Cavaliers, who had evened the series with a 111-102 win in Game 4 on Monday.

James and Love were the only two Cleveland players to score in double figures.

"Defensively, holding this (Boston) team to 36 per cent (shooting) from the field was a good job," Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said.

"We had a lot of mistakes that we could have cleaned up, but overall, they scored 96 points and shoot 36 per cent. We've got to be able to score the basketball."

Game 5 winners in best-of-seven play-off series that were tied 2-2 have won the series 83.1 per cent of the time (167-34).

Game 6 is Friday night in Cleveland.

Boston are one win away from their first NBA Finals appearance since 2010, when they lost to the rival Los Angeles Lakers in seven games. Cleveland has been in three consecutive Finals while James has gone to seven in a row between the Cavs and Miami Heat.

Brown lauded the post-season improvement of Tatum, saying: "The sky's the limit. He's gonna continue to get better. He's my workout partner. I expect it in myself, and I expect it in him.

"Everybody doesn't hit the rookie wall. I don't think Ben Simmons or Donovan Mitchell hit one either. I don't think Jayson Tatum did. If you come into the league thinking you're gonna hit one, you kind of ... limit yourself. J.T., ain't no limit for that. He just comes in and works. He has the right people around him. Al. The right vets around him. Showing us the right way to win."

Down 76-60 entering the fourth quarter, Cleveland fell behind by 20 early in the period before pulling within 85-73 on James' layup with 4min 43sec to play. Boston's Terry Rozier hit a pull-up jumper 17 seconds later, and Horford's three-pointer with 3:53 left put Boston ahead 90-73.

The Cavs waived the white flag when James checked out with 3:11 remaining.

Lue said he thought James looked tired, but the coach added: "No concerns. You've got to be ready to play now. No concerns."

Boston was up 53-42 at half-time.

Tensions flared early in the second quarter when Cleveland's Larry Nance Jr. shoved Morris under the basket. Nance took exception to Morris standing over him after falling while battling for a loose ball.

Technical fouls were assessed to Morris, Nance and Rozier, who shoved Nance in retaliation as the teams scuffled. Cleveland trailed 36-19 at the time but used a 12-3 run to pull within eight with 8:40 left until half-time.

The Celtics led 32-19 after one quarter.