Celtics cruise past Wizards in Game 7 to Eastern Conference finals

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Despite the hardships, Thomas is averaging 25.4 points in the postseason - he had 29 points, 12 assists and just two turnovers in the Game 7 win over the Wizards - and has four 30-point outings. The two teams will now square off for their first playoff matchup since the 2015 opening round in which the Cavaliers swept the Celtics.

But the Celtics continued to fight and claw their way, doing just enough to keep the game from getting out of hand and in a sense, setting the tone for what they certainly hope will be a better showing in Game 2.

He made both free throws, but maybe more important, he made it clear to anyone watching the game that despite being down by 20-plus points, he was still in the fight.

James, looking to be the first player since Boston's Bill Russell (in the 1960s) to go to seven straight finals, opens his sixth playoff series against the Celtics - the most he has played against any team. James allowed 0.83 points per possession during the regular season as the primary defender (Irving allowed 0.99) and was in the top 10 percent in terms of defending a spot-up shooter (40 percent effective field goal against). "I mean we clearly have young, bonafide stars and now we've just got to improve some of the pieces, make sure that we continue to get better". Or maybe, he could use his "dirty player" skills to get in the head and under the skin of Kevin Love to take him out of the series.

While most think Boston supporters will be even more riled up for this series, facing the defending champions, four-time MVP James believes that fan base is already as hyped as its ever going to get. They scratched and clawed their way. They're a totally different team at this point. The hit us first.

INDEPENDECE, Ohio (AP) - LeBron James peeled off his practice jersey to reveal a T-shirt featuring a leprechaun on the front. With fresh legs, it will be hard to stop him and the Cavaliers dynamic offense on a nightly basis.

"They ain't (giving) us a chance in this series", Thomas said Monday.

When things look bleak and all other things fail, falling back on the "it's us against the world" always helps for some level of motivation and expect to hear a lot of it in the next day or two ...

Markelle Fultz has previously spoken about how the Celtics would have the "craziest backcourt" between himself and Isaiah Thomas. But the Celtics missed their next five shots and a Kevin Love three-pointer pushed the Cleveland lead to 21 with 5:43 remaining in the half.

Aside from contesting on the perimeter, the Celtics have their work cut out to stop the Cavaliers in transition.

Of course, James needs rest during the season at some points to give him an opportunity to prepare for the postseason. Love and Tristan Thompson should thrive on the glass since the Celtics are a very suspect group of rebounders ...

Still, James respects not only the Celtics, but also their hallowed history. LeBron James played the entire first quarter, then took a seat for the first three minutes of the second.

James spent most of the first half exploiting mismatches and either powering or spinning his way to the basket. "They're a worthy opponent".