Seeded Celtics provide final East challenge for LeBron James' Cavs


The Celtics will host Cleveland Wednesday in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, marking the Celtics' first return to that stage since 2012.

The series matches up the top 2 seeds in the conference this season, with Boston holding home court advantage by virtue of ending the regular season 2 games better than Cleveland to secure the top seed.

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas scored a team-high 29 points and added 12 assists, and Celtics backup center Kelly Olynyk scored a playoff career-high 26 points on 10-for-14 shooting as Boston eliminated the Washington Wizards with a 115-105 victory Monday in Game 7.

You have to hand it Stevens, who has that magic touch with decent players like Kelly Olynyk (26 points Monday), who looks like a star on some nights because the coach knows how to teach and run a complex offense that gets so many guys wide open shots. Boston also connected on 11 three-pointers, including 8 of 13 in the second half. Bradley Beal had a great game for the Wizards, scoring a playoff career high 38 points in the losing effort. John Wall and Markieff Morris each finished with 18.

But Washington also had 15 turnovers, leading to 17 of the Celtics' points.

Washington did respond to Boston's run with a 7-0 run to climb back into it, but they were never able to get over the hump.

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Olynyk continued to have a strong performance off the bench for the Celtics.

This combined with Avery Bradley averaging 28 points a game should ring warning bells for Wizards fans far and wide.

Washington missed five of their first six shots while the Celtics hit three of their first six, including a wing three that ignited the crowd and caused Scott Brooks to call his first time out. Then Olynyk took over. But Bradley Beal got loose for whatever he wanted on the perimeter, and both teams played too nervously to truly break away until the start of the third quarter. The Cavs are well-rested and it will be an uphill battle for either the Celtics or the Wizards, without much chance of them moving on. Outrebounded the Celtics 43-31. The Celtics have beaten the Wizards nine straight times at TD Garden dating back to 2014. Ian Mahinmi said he has "good and bad days" on the left calf that kept him out the first two games of the series, but said he is good to go for Game 7.

Marcus Smart, Amir Johnson and Olynyk all were whistled for three fouls in the opening 24 minutes, though Smart did inject some life into a second unit that outscored their Wizards' counterparts 19-5. The home team won all 11 meetings this season.

PRESSURE IS ON: Thomas and Wall. Instead, Thomas did most of his damage in the third which is when the Celtics began to take control of the game.