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Isaiah Thomas, Celtics Beat Wizards in Game 7, Will Face LeBron James, Cavaliers

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistMay 16, 2017

BOSTON, MA - MAY 15:  Kelly Olynyk #41 and Isaiah Thomas #4 of the Boston Celtics hug during the game against the Washington Wizards during Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the 2017 NBA Playoffs on May 15, 2017 at TD Garden in Boston, MA. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)
Brian Babineau/Getty Images

The Boston Celtics are headed to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2012 after beating the Washington Wizards 115-105 in Game 7 Monday night in TD Garden.  

Isaiah Thomas led the team with 29 points and 12 assists, but Kelly Olynyk stole the show. Olynyk matched his season high with 26 points, and added five rebounds and four assists.

Naturally, Olynyk had social media buzzing:

Marc Stein @TheSteinLine

Larry Legend jealous of this Olynyk fourth quarter ...

Sean Grande @SeanGrandePBP

Kelly Olynyk averaged 9 points a game this year. He has 14...in the 4th quarter...of the biggest game of this life.

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

Kelly Olynyk scored 26 points for the Celtics in Game 7 He totaled 26 points in his previous 3 games combined https://t.co/jK7YJmbKYE

Olynyk's outstanding contributions off the bench highlighted how little the Wizards got from their reserves. As a unit, Washington's bench scored five combined points—all of which were courtesy of Bojan Bogdanovic.

As a result, a great night from Bradley Beal was all for naught. Beal scored 38 points on 12-of-22 shooting, including 5-of-10 from three-point range.

After enjoying the biggest night of his NBA career in Washington's Game 6 win, John Wall followed up with a performance that may offer ammunition for his harshest critics.

Wall posted a double-double (18 points, 11 assists) but disappeared in the fourth quarter. He missed seven of his eight attempts from beyond the arc as well. Annie Apple, mother of New York Giants cornerback Eli Apple, was surprised at Wall fading down the stretch:

Annie Apple @SurvivinAmerica

Where's John Wall ? https://t.co/FJ3kbgTdta

Beal played 46 minutes and Wall 44. Clearly, the Wizards simply ran out of gas in the fourth quarter.

The turning point of the game came as the Wizards held a 76-72 lead with a little over four minutes remaining in the third quarter. Boston closed the period on a 13-3 run to take an 85-79 advantage into the final frame.

The Celtics' momentum carried over to the fourth quarter. Their lead grew to double digits before Thomas connected on a three to make it a 13-point game, 94-81:

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

You know what time IT is...⏰ https://t.co/5JcWrmqU4k

Many were quick to write off the Wizards at that point:

Nathan Bernhardt @jonbernhardt

the Wizards have turned into the Capitals since I turned on the TV

Robert Wheel LLC @BobbyBigWheel

The Wizards were definitely Hufflepuff

Zach Harper @talkhoops

Can we switch to Rizzoli and Isles?

Washington continued to hang around, cutting the deficit to four points following a four-point play by Beal with 6:09 left in the game. But the Wizards couldn't get any closer, and a three-pointer from Olynyk with 3:26 remaining was a backbreaker that put Boston ahead by double digits again.

Boston's reward for Monday's win will be a date with the Cleveland Cavaliers, who haven't played a game since beating the Toronto Raptors May 7.

The Cavs are scoring 114.5 points per game, and LeBron James has been excellent in the playoffs, averaging 34.4 points, 9.0 rebounds and 7.1 assists through eight games.

Cleveland rolled through the Detroit Pistons and Atlanta Hawks in the first two rounds of last year's postseason before encountering some trouble against the Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Celtics are good enough that they should push the Cavs more than Toronto and the Indiana Pacers did already this year.

Still, Cleveland went 3-1 against Boston during the regular season, and the Celtics had no answer for James, who nearly averaged a triple-double (29.3 points, 9.5 rebounds and 9.8 assists) in the four meetings.

The outcome of the conference finals could carry significant ramifications for the summer.

Should the Cavs lose, the front office may feel a minor retooling is necessary, the timing of which would coincide with the expiring contract of general manager David Griffin. If the Celtics fall, general manager Danny Ainge may finally go all in and part with the team's draft assets in order to acquire an All-Star talent such as Paul George or Jimmy Butler.