Celtics slip past Sixers, advance to face Cavs
Jayson Tatum’s go-ahead basket with 22.5 seconds left sent the Boston Celtics back to the Eastern Conference finals with a 114-112 win against the visiting Philadelphia 76ers in Game 5 of their second-round playoff series Wednesday night.
Tatum had a team-high 25 points, Jaylen Brown scored 24, Terry Rozier added 17 and Al Horford scored 15 for the Celtics, who took a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series before losing 103-92 in Philadelphia on Monday.
Boston will face the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers in the conference finals for a second consecutive season. The Cavs, who advanced after sweeping the Toronto Raptors, eliminated the Celtics in a five-game series last May.
Game 1 of Eastern Conference finals is Sunday in Boston.
Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid missed a potential game-tying layup with 12.5 seconds left before the 76ers turned the ball over. Boston’s Terry Rozier made two free throws with 9.8 seconds on the clock to make it 113-109, but a JJ Redick 3-pointer with 3.8 ticks left had the 76ers back within a point.
Marcus Smart made one of two free throws with 2.4 seconds left, and Philadelphia turned it over on the inbounds play to seal it.
Embiid finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds, Dario Saric had a playoff-career-high 27 points and 10 boards, and Ben Simmons totaled 18 points with eight rebounds and six assists for the 76ers.
Philadelphia, which snapped a five-year playoff drought this season, was denied its first trip to the conference finals since going to the NBA Finals in the 2000-01 season.
No team in NBA history has overcome an 0-3 series deficit.
Two Aron Baynes free throws with 6:04 left in the third quarter gave Boston its biggest lead at 12 points, but Philadelphia answered with a 19-8, quarter-ending run to pull within 83-82 entering the final period.
Robert Covington’s 3-pointer with 9:49 remaining gave the 76ers a 90-88 lead, their first since being up 48-47 with 3:47 left in the first half.
Boston scored six straight to go up 100-94 on Rozier’s finger roll with 5:27 left.
Saric’s trey at 3:30 had the 76ers back in front 103-102, and the Philadelphia lead swelled to four with a minute and a half left.
Smart’s put-back of a Tatum missed tied the game at 109 with exactly one minute left.
Boston led 61-52 at halftime.
Simmons’ driving layup with 1:45 to play in the first half brought the 76ers within 53-52 heading into the final minute. However, Baynes’ 3-pointer with 56 seconds to play sparked an 8-0 Boston run to end the hall.