Jaylen Brown

Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports

Celtics 114, Sixers 112: There's no stopping C's as they advance to conference finals and date with LeBron

John Tomase
May 09, 2018 - 11:06 pm

Their No. 2 seed tells us the Celtics are exactly where they're supposed to be. Reality is infinitely more rewarding.

On Wednesday night, the C's booked passage to the Eastern Conference Finals for the second straight year, and it wasn't easy.

The Philadelphia 76ers took them to the final seconds, but Jayson Tatum's layup with 22 seconds broke the night's final tie before Marcus Smart intercepted the final desperation pass that secured Boston's 114-112 victory.

The C's won the series in five games and move on to a rematch with LeBron James and the Cavaliers for the right to reach the Finals.

Tatum was once again enormous, delivering his seventh straight 20-point game with 25 and four assists. Fellow youngster Jaylen Brown added 24 on 10-of-13 shooting, while Terry Rozier added 16 points and six rebounds.

The Garden was once again rocking, with former Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe the guest of honor, thanks to his newfound bromance with Rozier. Bledsoe sat courtside with Celtics ownership and wore a signed Rozier jersey that was a little snug -- Bledsoe is 6-foot-5 and played at 240 -- but he sported it with pride.

Celtics fans got creative riding the young Sixers. They yelled at Simmons to shoot every time he touched the ball on the perimeter. They broke out, "Bleep the process." They informed Joel Embiid that he sucks.

The Sixers still nearly sent the series back to Philadelphia. Dario Saric and Embiid poured in 27 apiece, and even playing inconsistently again, Ben Simmons contributed 18 points, eight rebounds, and six assists.

With the game hanging in the balance, who else but Al Horford spearheaded a 10-0 run, scoring twice inside before recording his fourth steal and springing Rozier for the layup that put the C's up six in the final five minutes. He later found Tatum for a dunk and finished with 15 points, eight rebounds, and five steals.

The Sixers refused to go quietly, though, and when Dario Saric made a 3 with 3:44 left followed by a Simmons layup, the Sixers led by three.

The Celtics trailed by four with 1:37 remaining, but Horford threw down a vicious lob from Tatum and Smart tipped in a missed Tatum layup to tie it. That set the stage for Tatum's layup off a scramble and the C's made enough free throws to survive a 26-foot 3-pointer from J.J. Redick.

And so now the Celtics once again can say, "Bring on LeBron." Unlike a year ago, when they were overmatched, it feels like this time they'll be ready.