NBA: Celtics looking to close out visiting Cavs in Game 5

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Donovan Mitchell’s availability will be among the top storylines Wednesday when the Cleveland Cavaliers visit the Boston Celtics for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

A strained left calf prevented Mitchell from playing Monday, when the top-seeded Celtics took a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series with a 109-102 victory in Cleveland. Mitchell was injured in the final minutes of Cleveland’s 106-93 loss Saturday in Game 3.

Following Monday’s loss, Cleveland coach J.B. Bickerstaff said Mitchell was day-to-day. Mitchell is averaging 29.6 points per game in the playoffs this season.

The fourth-seeded Cavaliers must win Wednesday to avoid elimination.

“They’re a connected group that has been resilient all year long,” Bickerstaff said. “We’ve been through a ton with this group, and never once has our group folded when guys have had opportunities or the team needs them to step up.”

Cleveland is 12-16 in the games Mitchell has missed this season.

Darius Garland attempted to fill the scoring void Monday with 30 points and seven assists in 40 minutes. Cleveland was 15 of 48 from 3-point territory in the loss.

“He carried the load for us,” Bickerstaff said. “He put pressure on them offensively, made them make tough decisions, and then I thought he made the right play. I thought he did a great job of sparking us and carrying us with spirit.”

Boston’s victory Monday was the first time it won a playoff game by fewer than 13 points this year. Cleveland kept the pressure on by trimming a 15-point deficit to five points in the fourth quarter.

“It’s been a while since we had a grind-it-out, tough, back-and-forth, fight-it-out game,” Boston’s Jrue Holiday said. “So it felt good to really just get out there and execute and know that any type of game we play, we can execute and get the win.”

Boston’s Jayson Tatum had 33 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and two steals in the Game 4 win.

“We hung our hat tonight on the defensive end,” Tatum said. “We made timely shots and even the ones that we didn’t necessarily make, some of those kick-out 3s — just good execution. Sometimes you don’t make shots, but how connected we were on the defensive end — when we had to get stops, we did.”

Boston attempted 24 free throws in Game 4, 17 more than Cleveland.

“I’m not going to go into it, but that’s ridiculous for the amount of drives that we have,” Garland said. “The amount of paint attacks. Just having seven free throws in a basketball game when they’re getting 24, I don’t know. I’m not one of the refs.

“I’m not one of those guys with a striped shirt, but I know how many times I get hit. I know how many times my teammates get hit, put on the floor and we can’t reciprocate it. It’s tough.”

A victory Wednesday would advance the Celtics to the Eastern Conference finals for the sixth time in the last eight years. Boston is 14-14 in home playoff games over the past three seasons, but 18-7 in road playoff games during that span.

“Now it’s time to go back and play well in front of our fans and give them something to cheer for and try to get a win, ” Tatum said.

–Field Level Media

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