Erica Denhoff/ALOST

akoiki-passport2 – by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief

BOSTON — A win on Wednesday would guarantee that the Boston Celtics would not play their next competitive game for at least the next three days, time to give their collective bones some rest on the journey they hope will end in the NBA Finals. The player possessing the oldest collection of those bones pushed as hard as he has done this entire postseason to make sure that the extended rest, as well as another playoff series-clinching victory, was assured.

The 37-year-old Horford made history while being the spark the Celtics needed on Wednesday night, as he went for 22 points, 15 rebounds, five assists and three blocks in Boston’s 113-98 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 5 to advance to the conference finals with a 4-1 series victory. Jayson Tatum led all Boston scorers with 25 points as the Celtics won three straight to end the series after a home defeat in Game 2, exactly the same path they took when they defeated the Miami Heat in the first round in five.

Starting in place of injured center Kristaps Porzingis for the sixth consecutive game, Horford became just the third player aged 37 or older to have a 20-point, 15-rebound, five-assist game, joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and LeBron James. He also became the oldest player in NBA playoff history with at least 15 points, 10 rebounds and at least five three-pointers made. Officially, Horford made six of the Celtics’ 19 three-pointers on the night, and his final one, coming with 56 seconds remaining and giving Boston a 113-96 lead, was immediately followed by a primal scream and a couple of fist pumps at half-court, as the 17-year vet capped off one of the best performances amongst the 177 playoff games he has contested as a pro.

“We had a great opportunity at home to handle this, and I knew it was going to take a lot more than handling it normally,” Horford said. “It’s special. It’s something that’s hard to do. … This is another positive step of where we want to get to.

“We all wanted this so bad … I’m just happy that we were able to take advantage of this,” Horford continued. “In the past, we’ve been in this position and haven’t been able to close things. This is a sign of growth for our group, so I’m very proud of that.”

Not only was Cleveland missing star guard Donovan Mitchell for a second straight game with a calf strain, it also played without big Jarrett Allen (rib contusion) and sixth man Caris LeVert (bone bruise in knee). Despite that, the Cavaliers were only down six at halftime, 58-52, and were within one possession of Boston early in the fourth when former Celtic Marcus Morris Sr. hit the fourth of his five three-pointers in the game to shave the Celtics’ lead to 86-83. Boston responded with a 15-4 run, capped off by a Tatum three. Morris hit one more three to shave Cleveland’s deficit to 101-92 at the 4:54 mark, but that was as close as the Cavaliers got in its valiant try at a comeback.

Evan Mobley led all scorers with 33 points for the Cavaliers, while Morris Sr. scored a season high 25 points, making 10-of-13 from the field and those five threes (on six attempts).

*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Wednesday evening’s game, with photos taken by ALOST staff photographer Erica Denhoff. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 38 pictures in total.

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Tags : Al HorfordBoston CelticsCleveland CavaliersNational Basketball AssociationNBA Playoffs

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