NBA

Tatum credits short-handed Cavs as Celtics close in on conference finals

By Sports Desk May 14, 2024

Jayson Tatum credited the Cleveland Cavaliers for the fight they showed in Donovan Mitchell's absence after helping the Boston Celtics take a 3-1 lead in the teams' Eastern Conference semifinal series. 

Tatum had 33 points and 11 rebounds as the Celtics moved within a game of reaching the conference finals for a third straight year with Monday's 109-102 road win.

Cleveland, who were already without starting center Jarrett Allen due to a rib contusion, were also deprived of their leading scorer after Mitchell suffered a calf strain in Game 3.

However, the Cavs stayed in the game until Jaylen Brown sank a clutch 3-pointer with 69 seconds to go in the fourth quarter, with Derrick White and Tatum then making a couple of free throws each to add some gloss to the scoreline.

Darius Garland had 30 points and seven assists for the Cavs while Caris LeVert had 19 points, leaving Tatum impressed. 

"It's to be expected, right? When the best player goes out, everybody has more freedom, more opportunity," Tatum said of Boston's opponents.

"Obviously, we knew it wasn't going to be easy. It's the playoffs, they don't want to go home. 

"Give them credit, they played hard from beginning to end and made big plays on both ends. They hit big shots, so it was a battle, and it was fun out there."

Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff also heaped praise on his players, saying: "I mean, they laid it all out there. They gave us everything that they had. 

"They competed at a high level. They played the game properly. I'm proud of the guys, the way they went out and scrapped and competed and gave ourselves a chance."

Boston now have a chance to wrap up the series in Game 5 at TD Garden on Wednesday, an opportunity Brown is keen to ensure they take.

"There's nothing better than winning a playoff game on the road," Brown said. "It's like everybody's against you guys. It's a tough environment, the crowd was great, but as a competitor, it's really fun to be in an environment like that, to win on the road.

"Now it's time to go back and play well in front of our fans and give them something to cheer for and try to get a win."

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