Celtics seeking validation against Cavaliers

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Led by 7-footer Olynyk, the Celtics got a huge lift from their bench, outscoring their Wizards' counterparts 48-5. After saving the Wizards' season in Game 6 with his heroic 3-pointer, Wall couldn't buy a bucket in the second half, going 0-for-11 over the final 19 minutes.

"A friend called me and said "Be at your best when your best is needed" and my best was needed tonight", Olynyk said after the win.

He got a standing ovation as the Celtics let him come back into the game with 8 seconds left as Isaiah Thomas came off the court, and it's rare to say that I.T. wasn't even the most important player of the night.

In the regular season, the Cavs went 3-1 against the Celtics.

The Celtics are the last franchise to beat a James team in the Eastern Conference playoffs, when Boston knocked the Cavs out in the semifinals in 2010. Our goal was to get to the Eastern Conference finals, and we were one game short.

For Thomas, it serves as the ultimate validation for a team that many felt was unworthy of the conference's top seed. Three years ago, they won 25 games.

Bradley Beal led the Wizards - playing their first Game 7 since 1979 - with 38 points, 24 in the second half.

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"I think the bench was a big factor in Game 5 (a Boston win at home) and Game 7 certainly was as well", Celtics coach Brad Stevens said.

Isaiah Thomas has proved this postseason that he is one of the best point guards in the game.

Starting center Al Horford finished with 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting to go with six rebounds and five assists, Jae Crowder had 14 points with five rebounds and Marcus Smart ended with 13 points and six boards off the bench for the Celtics.

Boston trailed 76-72 late in the third quarter before ending the period on a 13-3 spurt. Then, three minutes had barely passed when the Celtics opened an 8-2 lead and Brooks responded with one of his quickest timeouts of the series. The Celtics only win came in Boston by four points, and Kevin Love did not play. Boston carried their positive momentum into the fourth quarter, where Olynyk took over. He scored 11 of 13 points for the Celtics as they stretched their advantage to 110-100. Boston made 29 of their 40 shots in the paint area, while Washington only made 20 of 35 in the paint.

There's plenty at stake for also-rans such as Philadelphia, New Orleans and Sacramento.

The Celtics are headed to the Eastern Conference Finals, but first, they await their fate in the 2017 NBA Draft Lottery Tuesday night. We outlasted them there. "He's been putting us in really good positions, and the type of attention that they were drawing to him, he was getting rid of it (and) putting us in great positions and we had to make plays, and that's what we tried to do".

Complicating matters, while Washington could not share the workload, Boston sent help to its core players. And with their season in the balance, this instinct showed in the worst time.