Victory or Defeat in Game 7, the Boston Celtics have already won

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Despite having an eight-point deficit after the first quarter, Cleveland outscored Boston 41-30 in the second and third quarters combined and put forth a surprisingly-strong defensive effort against the home team.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are eyeing their fourth straight appearance in the championship series but are outsiders to triumph despite star man LeBron James in scintillating form.

All of that instability in the Cavs' lineup was only enhanced by a mid-season injury to Kevin Love and a late-season leave of absence by head coach Tyronn Lue, who missed nine games due to a health scare.

The Cavaliers went on to win the game, 87-79, and took the series, 4-3, after going down 0-2 against the Celtics.

James led that comeback to Cleveland's first title, and now he's got a shot for another unlikely one.

Irving, who continues to recover from knee surgery, was on the bench at TD Garden for much of Boston's postseason run.

Jayson Tatum scored 24 points, Al Horford had 17 and Marcus Morris added 14 points with 12 rebounds for the Celtics, who were looking to return to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010.

But Irving last appeared in a game March 11.

It took the full seven games of a largely forgettable Eastern Conference playoff series but with their season on the line, the young Boston Celtics cracked. "His talent, his composure, where he comes from has allowed him to be successful so he's a very, very, very good player already and he definitely at this pace can become a great player." .

It's not the one they want.

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"I mean, at this time past year, I couldn't have said that we were going to have 11 new players off the team that just won 53 games and won a playoff round", said Ainge about a club that actually won two rounds last season. With the rookie Tatum and second-year Jaylen Brown, Boston established itself as the team of the future in the East.

"He's unbelievable", Stevens said.

James has never played more than 100 games in any season and hasn't played this many since 2011. Tatum's 351 points this postseason was one short of Abdul-Jabbar's record of 352. Rapper 21 Savage was also at the game.

Boston made the mistake of using the three pointer as their main offensive weapon down the stretch but they finished a dismal seven-of-39 overall from beyond the arc.

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