Celtics seeking validation against Cavaliers in East finals

BOSTON-Canadian Kelly Olynyk scored a career-playoff high 26 points and the Boston Celtics used a big fourth quarter to outlast the Washington Wizards 115-105 in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals Monday night. The Celtics missed a load of shots early, the Wizards starters grew stronger, and the third quarter teetered back and forth; it nearly tumbled away from the Celtics, then they yanked it back to sprint past Washington.

However, Olynyk would score 7 of the Celtics next 9 points as they would cruise to the win in the final minute.

Still, Cleveland went 3-1 against Boston during the regular season, and the Celtics had no answer for James, who almost averaged a triple-double (29.3 points, 9.5 rebounds and 9.8 assists) in the four meetings. They, like Golden State, have gone 8-0 in the first round of the playoffs, and they'll have 10 days off between their last game against Toronto and the opening of the conference finals. Clearly, the Wizards simply ran out of gas in the fourth quarter.

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.

The Celtics had the largest lead of the first half at 10-2, but that gap was quickly erased by Washington as Boston started to rack up fouls. Three minutes in, an Avery Bradley transition 3-pointer forced the Wizards to call timeout. Boston's well-balanced offense and tenacious defense down the stretch ultimately was too much for the Wizards to handle, as the Celtics were in total control in the fourth quarter en route to victory.

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. Smart touched everything, snatching rebounds, daring to take and make shots, never a hint of fear to him. Outrebounded the Celtics 43-31.

Who: Washington Wizards vs. The Celtics will have their hands full with the Cavaliers, who are healthy and clicking at the right time of the season.

The Celtics open the Eastern finals against the Cavaliers Wednesday night at TD Garden at 8:30.

The Wizards came up short of becoming the first team in this matchup to win on the opponent's home floor in 2016-17. The Wizards are 6-2 in the playoffs when they combine for 50 or more points.

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. Well, Beal and Wall will have to conjure up more of what they were cooking in Game 6.

  • Julie Sanders