The Cavs, playing solid defense, knocked the ball out of Jason Terry’s hands and out of bounds with two seconds left and the Celtics trailing by one point. Because the Celtics had no timeouts, they could not draw up a play for the game-winning shot.
But, wait. The officials called for a replay review, essentially granting the Celtics a free timeout and Doc Rivers a chance to draw up one of his classic inbounds plays. Terry came through with a seal screen on Luke Walton, who was defending Jeff Green, and Green rolled from the top of the key to the hoop for the winning layup. This is Green’s second game-winning layup in the last 21 days and snaps a five-game losing streak for the Celtics.
Brandon Bass led the Celtics with 22 points, while Green had 21 points and seven rebounds. Paul Pierce added 19 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, although he battled turnover trouble all game and finished with seven turnovers. The Celtics flipped a switch at halftime, holding the Cavs to just one offensive rebound after the break and committing only five of their 15 turnovers in the second half.
Fourth quarter, :09.2, Cavs 92-91: Paul Anthony Pierce. He gives the Celtics a chance.
Pierce dribbled, backed down, spun, leaned, turned and faded away before hitting a short jump shot to pull the Celtics within one. Terry, in a rare appearance as a defensive stopper, then forced Livingston into a miss that Boston gobbled up.
Fourth quarter, :39, Cavs 92-89: Hold up, now this is something completely different.
Pierce canned a pair of freebies and Green completed a three-point play to make it a one-point game, but after Crawford and Green missed shots on a couple of no-calls, the Cavs were able to give themselves some breathing room. In both cases, Crawford and Green spent a bit too long complaining to the refs, and the Celtics were lucky the Cavs did not capitalize on their numbers the first time.
Fourth quarter, 2:16, Cavs 90-84: The Celts are still alive, but the “beep beep” on the life support monitor is getting faint. Pierce will be headed to the free throw line for a chance to cut this to a four-point game, but the Celtics are still trying to find consistent defensive stops to make this feel real. On the last few possessions, the Cavs bailed them out by taking tough, contested shots.
Fourth quarter, 5:08, Cavs 88-78: Rivers cleared the bench of his starters, clearly giving it one last go at winning the game. But the Celtics may have already dug themselves too deep a hole to pull out of this time. All the crazy shots by Crawford in the world will not matter unless the Celtics start shoring things up defensively. The Cavs are shooting 19 for 29 — yup, they have missed 10 shots — in the second half.
Fourth quarter, 10:05, Cavs 79-70: The Cavs must have read “How to Shoot Threes” from cover to cover during halftime, because they are toasty hot. After going 2-for-8 from deep in the first half, the Cavs are 4-for-6 since, with two triples by Daniel Gibson.
At the same time, Ellington is continuing the trend of the 2006 Episcopal Academy boys’ basketball team tearing up the Celtics this year. Ellington has 16 points on 7-for-15 shooting and two steals thus far. He was a high school teammate of Bobcats guard Gerald Henderson. We won’t bother reminding you what Henderson did to the Celtics earlier this season.
End of third quarter, Cavs 73-67: Crawford’s imprint is all over this game, for both good and bad. He has dribbled the ball off his foot, stolen it back, hit an ill-advised jump shot and tossed in a floater at the buzzer to end the third quarter.
To show for all his trouble, he and the Celtics have… a six-point deficit, unchanged for most of the third quarter.
The Celtics have fewer turnovers than their opponent for once, but they are getting beaten up on the offensive glass 9-2, as usual. Like Crawford’s contributions, every step forward comes with a step backward for Boston.
Third quarter, 3:19, Cavs 66-60: The Celtics insist they are not feeling sorry for themselves with all their injuries, but eventually they have to prove it. Falling behind the cellar-dwelling Cavs by 12 points is not the way to do that.
Green, Bass and Terry are trying something, though. Bass and Green got to the foul line and Terry hit a pull-up three on the break to prompt a quick timeout from Cavs coach Byron Scott. Wins are a rare commodity for the Cavs, who have lost five straight, and Scott does not want to let an opportunity at a “W” slip away.
Third quarter, 9:02, Cavs 56-50: The Celtics would never blow a 12-point lead and lose to the Cavs.
The Cavs have burst out of the halftime gate on an 11-4 run, sprinting into the lead while the Celtics mostly stand flat-footed. Ellington, Livingston and Zeller are now in double figures after contributing to the early second-half effort.
Halftime, Celtics 46-45: Gee has a spot reserved on “Shaqtin’ a Fool” after muffing a layup that would have helped Cleveland lead at the half. That’s what Gee gets for trying to shoot a layup. The dude is a dunker, so he should throw it down. That’s what I would do if I had his ups, anyway.
Missed layup or not, the Cavs succeeded in wiping out most of their deficit in the second quarter. They improved their shooting accuracy to 38 percent for the game by shooting 11-for-27 from the floor in the quarter. (Yeah, the Cavs are such a dreadful shooting team, going 11-for-27 is an improvement.)
Bass scored seven points in the quarter to tie Pierce for the team-high of 11 points, but Pierce is having far from a standout game. Despite recording seven boards and five assists, Pierce also has six turnovers. That is just one fewer than Cleveland has as a team. That helps explain why the Cavs are only down by one point even with their poor shooting.
Second quarter, 5:26, Celtics 36-30: The Cavs are an awful team shooting-wise, but even they can hit point-blank layups (most of the time). The Celtics gave up two layups to Gee and a baby hook by Speights, who was fouled the next time he touched the ball, to give the Cavs a 7-1 run spurred by the two best shots in the game — layups and free throws.
Second quarter, 7:41, Celtics 35-23: Things just keep getting uglier for the Cavs and brighter for the Celtics.
The Cavs are now down to 29 percent from the field, after Speights airballed a turnaround hook shot against Randolph. In the meantime, a three by Pierce and a wild jumper by Jordan Crawford has put the Celtics in the lead by a dozen for the first time all game. The Celts have hit exactly half their shots and have 11 assists on 12 buckets.
Second quarter, 8:43, Celtics 29-23: Upon further review, Speights’ jumper late in the first quarter did not count. No matter. The shoot-first big man quickly got on the board with a running jumper/floater/layup thing to pull the Cavs within four points.
The Celtics’ second unit has put some more space between them and the Cavs, though. Terrence Williams hit a physical layup and Shavlik Randolph, who is playing with energy on both ends, drew a shooting foul and split the free throws.
End of first quarter, Celtics 24-20: Things are going Green’s way tonight. That became obvious when he caught the ball on an inbounds pass with only two seconds on the shot clock, fired up a fallaway 3-pointer and rattled it home. This could be one of those games for the Georgetown product, and it would come at just the right time for the Celtics.
Green has a game-high nine points after the first quarter, in which the Celtics led by as many as nine points before they got careless toward the end. They gave up a corner three to C.J. Miles and a buzzer-beating jumper by Marreese Speights to up Cleveland’s shooting percentage a smidgen below 35 percent for the game.
The Cavs’ inaccuracy is partly due to Boston’s defense, but largely because they are just not a good shooting team. They are the second-worst shooting team, field-goal percentage-wise, in the NBA. They have attempted the 11th-most field goals and have made the seventh-fewest, so that says a lot.
First quarter, 2:36, Celtics 17-13: Green was pretty much the only Celtic who could claim to have had a “good” game Tuesday against the Knicks. He didn’t claim that, though, because he tends to be in a bad mood after losses, no matter how he plays.
Still, he seems to have carried his 19-point, 10-rebound, six-assist effort over into another day. Green made two nice left-handed layups as he and Pierce are presenting some problems for the Cavs. But Cleveland, an outstanding offensive rebounding team, is already showing signs of giving Boston trouble in that respect. The Cavs have three offensive boards to the Celtics’ zero.
First quarter, 6:16, Celtics 12-9: The Celtics’ new look has led to some crazy matchups, such as Thompson trying to defend Green on the perimeter and Pierce trying to defend the much more athletic Gee in the high post. Nobody seems to be enjoying things as much as Zeller, though, who is having a field day against Boston’s makeshift front line.
Zeller has hit his first two shots and has four rebounds, two offensive, in the first six minutes. He has been the best front-line post player on the floor, although the Celtics own an 8-4 advantage in points in the paint.
6:45 p.m.: Courtney Lee is still out, joining Kevin Garnett on the list of Celtics with ankle issues. One night after Doc Rivers inserted Jordan Crawford into the starting lineup, though, the Celtics coach has taken a different tack with his starting five.
Chris Wilcox will get his first start of the season, and just his fifth start in 78 games as a Celtic, while Paul Pierce will effectively shift to shooting guard. This is a highly different starting lineup for Boston, but it is not that different from other lineups Rivers has used during games. Jeff Green and Pierce often share the floor in an effective 2-3 pairing, even though both are natural small forwards.
The projected starters appear below.
8 a.m. ET: Nobody was tougher on the Celtics than themselves after they tottered through a loss to the Knicks on Tuesday. They have little time to feel sorry for themselves, however, as they hit the court again Wednesday against the Cavs.
No matter what the record says, the Cavs are no pushover. Although they have battled injury trouble, as every team has, including the extended absence of Kyrie Irving, the Cavs have made some really good teams sweat it out. Just ask the Heat, who needed to come back from a 27-point deficit to keep their now-27-game win streak alive.
The Celtics hope they do not fall behind by that much, mostly because they are ill-equipped to come back from the type of hole. Courtney Lee’s status is expected to be a game-time decision.
Join us for updates and analysis during the game, which tips off at 7 p.m. ET.