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Celtics beat Sixers to book spot in East Conference finals

Los Angeles, Thursday @peoplesport11

Rookie Jayson Tatum scored the go-ahead layup with 22 seconds remaining in the fourth as the Boston Celtics punched their ticket to the NBA Eastern Conference finals with a 114-112 win over Philadelphia 76ers.

Tatum made it 111-109 after catching a pass from Marcus Smart under the basket and Terry Rozier helped seal the win by making a pair of clutch free throws with nine seconds left as the Celtics eliminated the 76ers four games to one.

“We got a lot of heart and a lot of talent on this team, nobody expected us to get this far,” said Tatum. The Celtics advance to the NBA’s final four to face LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers for the second straight year for a berth in the finals.

Boston was coming off a defeat in game four, but managed to impose their will on the 76ers down the stretch in Wednesday’s thriller, improving to 7-0 on their home court in these playoffs. The 76ers made the Celtics work in a game that featured 21 lead changes.

But Philadelphia had dropped the first three games and were ultimately unable to become the first team to rally from 0-3 down to win an NBA playoff series. Teams have now gone 130-0 when leading 3-0.

Forward Tatum tallied 25 points, guard Jaylen Brown had 24 and Rozier finished with 17 points and six rebounds for the Celtics who are 37-0 when taking a 2-0 lead in a playoff series.

Joel Embiid and Dario Saric, of Croatia, each scored 27 points, while Australia’s Ben Simmons finished with 18 points and eight rebounds and six assists for Philadelphia, who are 0-15 when losing the first two games of a series.

Tatum is the second rookie this post-season to notch seven straight 20-plus point playoff games. He joined Utah’s Donovan Mitchell, who did it over the first two rounds for a Jazz team ousted by the Houston Rockets on Tuesday.

Embiid had an opportunity to tie it after Tatum’s layup but was guarded closely and missed the shot. He grabbed his own rebound but lost that too when Rozier slapped the ball away with 10.8 seconds remaining. -AFP

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