NBA playoffs

Jayson Tatum, Celtics hold off Donovan Mitchell-less Cavaliers for 3-1 playoffs edge


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Jayson Tatum, Celtics hold off Donovan Mitchell-less Cavaliers for 3-1 playoffs edge

TAKING CHARGE. Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) drives against Cleveland Cavaliers guard Caris LeVert (3) in the second quarter of game four of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

The Boston Celtics squeeze by a gutsy Cleveland Cavaliers squad without star scorer Donovan Mitchell to earn a 3-1 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals

Jayson Tatum tossed in a game-high 33 points and Jaylen Brown finished with 27 as the visiting Boston Celtics beat the undermanned Cleveland Cavaliers 109-102 on Monday (Tuesday, May 14, Manila time) in Game 4 of an Eastern Conference semifinal series.

The victory gives the Celtics a 3-1 edge in the best-of-seven series. The teams will play Game 5 on Wednesday (Thursday, May 16, Manila time) in Boston.

“I thought both teams played really hard,” Boston coach Joe Mazzulla said. “I just thought you have to make plays down the stretch. So they made a ton of plays and put a ton of pressure on us, and we made a ton of plays. I thought both teams brought it.

“Everybody talks about clutch offense, I thought our clutch defense was good. We got stops when we needed to. … We executed our late-game defense. That’s just as important as the offense.”

Donovan Mitchell, Cleveland’s leading scorer, didn’t play because of a leg injury. Mitchell, who averaged 31.7 points per game in the first three contests of the series, strained his left calf in the final minutes of Boston’s 106-93 victory in Game 3 on Saturday.

The Cavaliers fell to 12-16 in games Mitchell has missed this season.

Boston had a 98-83 lead following a Brown basket with 7:56 to play, but Cleveland kept things interesting by scoring the next eight points.

That burst was part of a 12-2 run that the Cavaliers used to pull within five points with 3:14 to play, and Cleveland trailed 102-97 until Brown extended Boston’s lead to eight points by making a 3-pointer with 1:09 remaining.

Jrue Holiday added 16 points for the top-seeded Celtics, who held Cleveland to 43.6 percent shooting from the field (41 of 94). Holiday made 4 of 8 3-point attempts.

Fourth-seeded Cleveland received 30 points and seven assists from Darius Garland plus 19 points apiece from Evan Mobley and Caris LeVert. Mobley also had a team-high nine rebounds.

“(Garland) knows he’s capable,” Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “We’ve seen Darius carry this team before, so it’s not a surprise. He just knew what he had to do in order to give us a chance tonight, and I thought he did it.”

Boston made 21 of its 24 free-throw attempts. Cleveland was only 5 of 7 from the foul line.

The Celtics led 37-30 at the end of one quarter and 62-57 at halftime. Tatum, who finished the game with 11 rebounds, led all scorers with 23 points in the first half.

Cleveland took a 65-64 lead — its first edge since early in the opening quarter — on a Garland layup with 9:24 remaining in the third, but Boston answered with a 7-0 spurt to go up by six. The Celtics had an 88-78 advantage after three quarters.

“They gave us everything that they had,” Bickerstaff said. “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.” –

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