NBA Playoffs: Celtics return to the East Finals, Mavs put Thunder against the wall

Boston is the first team to qualify for the conference finals thanks to a stellar performance from Dominican center Al Horford.

(AFP / VOZ MEDIA) The Boston Celtics defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers Wednesday, ending this NBA Eastern Conference semifinal series 4-1, while the Mavericks took a 3-2 lead against the Thunder thanks to a huge performance from Luka Doncic.

The first team to qualify for the Conference Finals was the Celtics with a final 113-98 victory in front of their TD Garden fans.

The Celtics will now face either the New York Knicks or the Indiana Pacers in their sixth Eastern Conference Finals in the last eight years. Of all those series, the team only advanced to the NBA Finals in 2022 but then fell in the fight for the ring against the Golden State Warriors.

Dominican center Al Horford was the star of Wednesday with a fabulous tally of 22 points, 15 rebounds and 6 3-pointers.

At 37 years old, he became the oldest player to record at least 15 points, 10 rebounds and 5 3-pointers in a playoff game.

Alongside him, Jayson Tatum added 25 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists to earn the final victory against Cavaliers, diminished by the losses of their star Donovan Mitchell, who missed his second consecutive game due to a calf injury, as well as center Jarrett Allen and wing Caris LeVert.

Evan Mobley and role player Marcus Morris, with 33 and 25 points, respectively, tried to command the Cavaliers' resistance.

The Cavaliers held their own during the first half and got back within 3 points with nine minutes to go.

The Celtics ended their hopes with a 13-2 run that culminated in the elimination of the Cavaliers, who now face an uncertain postseason with the need to resolve the future of Donovan Mitchell.

Meanwhile, the Celtics, the best team in the regular season, will face the winner of the series between the Pacers and the Knicks, which New York is currently leading 3-2.

Mavericks cruise to victory: Doncic subdues the Thunder

In the West, the Dallas Mavericks beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 104-92 and moved one win away from qualifying for their second Western Conference Finals in three years.

Luka Doncic, who was struggling by his standard in the series, reacted with a triple double of 31 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists for the Mavericks, who avoided a final comeback by Oklahoma City like the one in Game 4 on Monday.

"I’m just trying to play basketball, just focus on basketball. Sometimes I forget this is the thing I love, the thing I do. My mental focus was just go out there and play basketball with a smile on my face and just go," Doncic said. "We just got one more to win out of two games, and that’s it. It’s 3-2, but that’s nothing. We’ve got to finish it and go with the same mentality."

Power forward P.J. Washington (10 points and 10 rebounds), a standout player in this series for Dallas, made a 3-pointer and a dunk on back-to-back possessions when the Thunder had tightened the Mavs' lead to 90-83 after falling 18 points behind.

Doncic capped the Mavericks' victory with one minute left by blocking a Shai Gilgeous-Alexander layup attempt. Gilgeous-Alexander was again the Thunder's leading scorer with 30 points and 8 assists.

Mark Daigneault, the NBA Coach of the Year, started the game with variations in the Oklahoma City starting five, leaving Australian guard Josh Giddey on the bench for the first time in favor of shooter Isaiah Joe.

The Mavericks will have the opportunity to eliminate the first seed in the West next Saturday in front of their home crowd.

The winner of the series will advance to the Western Conference Finals to face the winner of the other semifinal between the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Denver Nuggets, which Denver currently leads 3-2.