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Boston Celtics withstand Donovan Mitchell-less Cleveland Cavaliers, 109-102

Boston Celtics withstand Donovan Mitchell-less Cleveland Cavaliers, 109-102

The absence of Donovan Mitchell loomed large over Monday night’s Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals between the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers. Cleveland’s star guard was ruled out before the game with a left calf injury, but the Cavaliers didn’t make things easy on Boston for the evening. The Celtics withstood multiple comebacks in a game that remained within just two or three possessions for most of the night, fending off the Cavaliers to take a commanding 3-1 in the series.

For the second straight game, the action was spearheaded by the Jays: Jayson Tatum (33 points) and Jaylen Brown (27) carried a Boston offense that seemed a bit unsteady, with Jrue Holiday adding 16 points and Payton Pritchard scoring 11 off the bench. With Mitchell out, the Cavaliers relied on Darius Garland, who scored 30. Evan Mobley and Caris LeVert added 19 points apiece, while Max Strus scored 15 on five made threes.

The Cavaliers opened the night with a quick start, rattling off an 8-2 run in the early minutes of the game, but the Celtics’ response was assertive: a 19-2 run across the ensuing five minutes to put them back in command. At the center of the run was Tatum, who continued his recent scoring uptick with an explosive 16 first-quarter points. Cleveland answered with some timely three-point shooting, making six of their first nine attempts, and a quick start from LeVert (10 points). Boston entered the second quarter with a 37-30 advantage.

The Celtics’ offensive outburst continued into the second quarter, as their field goal percentage dipped above 70%. As the clock ticked under nine minutes, Brown and Cleveland’s Max Strus got tied up on the floor after Brown converted a layup. Brown hit the ground and Strus fell on top of him, and as Strus attempted to step over Brown, Brown appeared to grab Strus’ back foot. An initial review deemed that Brown’s contact was illegal but not unnecessary, resulting in a common foul, but an apparent second review determined that a foul occurred away from the ball, granting Cleveland a free throw and possession.

Though the sequence directly netted the Cavaliers just a single made free throw, it did appear to galvanize a bit of momentum. Aided by sloppy ball control on the part of the Celtics (10 first half turnovers), Cleveland trimmed the Boston lead all the way down to a single point as the quarter wore on. Despite racking up 11 made threes in the first half (25 attempts), the Cavs weren’t able…

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