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Al Horford, Celtics see shot at Finals slip away

28 May 2018

While neither team could crack the seal from three-point range even when wide open, there were some genuinely great defensive plays.

LeBron James saw first-hand just how much of a handful Tatum was, spending plenty of time guarding the rookie and he had nothing but praise for the 20-year-old after the 87-79 Game 7 win.

The Celtics have seen him do it, after he averaged 33.6 points, 9.0 rebounds and 8.4 assists to eliminate them in the East finals for the second straight year.

"As much as I was passing in the first half and guys weren't knocking them down, I believed in the second half they would", James said.

James and Horford embraced after the buzzer, then the Cavaliers donned NBA Finals hats and Eastern conference championship shirts before shuffling off the court to receive their trophy.

With six minutes left on the clock, the Celtics were ahead at 72-71 - but the Cavs scored 15 of the next 17 points to pull ahead and secure the win.

Cleveland played Game 7 without Kevin Love, who was ruled out for medical reasons after bumping heads with Tatum in the first quarter of Game 6. "The great quote from the great Doc Rivers is, 'You always want to go into the Game 7 with the best player, ' and we have the best player on our team going into a Game 7".

Next year, barring any offseason moves, the Celtics will trot out a lineup of Irving, Hayward, Tatum, Brown and Horford, with Rozier, Marcus Morris, Daniel Theis and should he re-sign in the offseason, Marcus Smart coming off the bench. James hit Tristan Thompson for an alley-oop to give Cleveland a 55-51 lead, but then James threw the ball away and sent Terry Rozier off on a fast break.

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James, playing his 100th game of the season, logged a full 48 minutes.

"I think it's a game-time decision", D'Antoni told reporters on Sunday. But that would be Boston's last basket for more than five minutes while Cleveland went on a 15-2 run to put the game away.

Tatum, Boston's leading scorer for the postseason, scored a team-high 24 points on 9-of-17 shooting with seven rebounds over 42 minutes in Game 7.

"He's just been getting treatment and trying to make sure it calms down and everything", D'Antoni said. That 2012 game and Sunday's victory are both important to James' career arc.

"It's been a satisfaction in the fact that I like to be successful", James said when asked about his continued dominance of the Eastern Conference. That time, he had to save the Heat's season down 3-2 in a series against a veteran-laden Celtics team.

Cleveland has faced the Warriors in the last three NBA Finals, winning in 2016 and losing in 2015 and 2017.

The Cavaliers will be making their fourth straight Finals appearance, where they will play either Houston or Golden State.

Al Horford, Celtics see shot at Finals slip away