End of game, Cavaliers win 88-87: Paul Pierce never got off a shot and Allen never touched the ball on the Celtics' final possession. The scrappy Cavs came away with a road victory over the Celtics, who up until the last four minutes were on their way to an impressive win.
Rookie guard Kyrie Irving scored six points in the final 4:13, including a spin move to a tough layup with 2.6 seconds on the clock, to snap the Celtics' four-game win streak. With the loss, the Celtics (9-10) drop below .500 and hold just a one-game edge in the loss column over the Cavs (8-11).
The Cavs are not the hopeless team many Boston fans assumed they were before the game. Still, after leading by 11 points with 4:25 left, the Celtics have to chalk this up as a bad loss.
Fourth quarter, :02.1, Cavs 88-87: The Cavs took their foul to give on Pierce, but only a half-second came off the clock.
Fourth quarter, :02.6, Cavs 88-87: The Cavs hadn't led since 8:03 left in the third quarter, but a run of 12 unanswered points gave them the lead with two seconds left.
Irving was the hero with a spinning layup over Bradley and Bass. The Celtics have the ball at halfcourt.
Fourth quarter, :22.2, Celtics 87-86: One thing that might work in the Celtics' favor in a close game could be free throws. The Cavs are the third-worst foul shooting team in the NBA at 68.6 percent, but Gee hit two that mattered to bring Cleveland within a point.
Fourth quarter, 1:38, Celtics 87-84: The NBA has tried to weed out the up-and-under foul, but Pierce looked to draw a fairly textbook pump-fake foul on Gee.
Gee went up to block a Pierce pump fake and landed directly on Pierce, who missed his jumper. Rivers was not happy about the lack of a call.
Two straight baskets by Varejao cut the Celtics lead to three points again.
Fourth quarter, 3:42, Celtics 87-80: Bass is at 13 points after scoring a jumper and a free throw to put the Celtics up by 11, but as promised Irving continued to push the Celtics.
Irving hit a short jumper and followed with two free throws to bring the Cavs back within seven points. Along with a running bank shot earlier, the rookie now has six fourth-quarter points with almost four minutes left.
Fourth quarter, 6:10, Celtics 82-71: Instead of tread water, the Celtics went into an all-out butterfly.
Pierce remained on the bench, but the Celtics' role players took over to put their lead over the Cavs back to a comfortable margin. After an Allen fadeaway jumper, Sasha Pavlovic, E'Twaun Moore and Bass scored baskets.
Four Celtics have scored in double figures, led by Allen with 22.
Fourth quarter, 8:33, Celtics 74-71: One thing Gee can do is dunk, and he did so to put an exclamation point on a mini run by the Cavs.
With Pierce on the bench, the Cavs outscored the Celtics 8-4 over the first 3:37 of the fourth to pull within a single possession.
It's a bit early to bring back Pierce and still expect him to have any legs at the end, so the Celtics might have to operate without their best player for a stretch. Time to see how well the C's can tread water.
End of third quarter, Celtics 70-62: Pierce is on track for another do-everything statistic line entering the fourth quarter.
The Celtics captain shared the team high in scoring with Allen at 18 points through three quarters. Pierce also lead the C's with six rebounds and five assists.
The Celtics have to be careful with Irving in the fourth. He looked to get into a groove in the third and has 15 points on 7-for-10 shooting and five assists going into the final frame.
Third quarter, 2:32, Celtics 67-57: The Celtics' second-half defense picked up, as it often does, allowing the C's to increase their lead to double digits for the first time.
Allen's 3 ended up being part of a 9-0 Celtics run that gave them a 10-point advantage over the Cavs. The Celtics are not only controlling the boards, 23-19, they're also leading in assists 19-9, which is evidence to how unselfish they've been on offense.
Third quarter, 5:06, Celtics 63-57: It took a while, but a busy third quarter finally started to turn the Celtics' way courtesy of Garnett, Pierce and Allen.
Allen's third 3 of the night gave Boston a 56-55 lead, and KG stretched that to 58-55 before taking his customary break at the seven-minute mark.
A pair of Alonzo Gee free throws pulled Cleveland within a point, but Pierce fought off a defender for a fallaway jumper as the shot clock expired, then broke through a double team to find Allen wide open for a 3 to give the Celtics their largest lead of the game at six points.
Halftime, Cavs 44-43: Whatever Rivers drew up in the huddle, it probably didn't involve Garnett throwing the ball into the backcourt and the clock expiring without the Celtics getting off a shot. That's just a guess.
The normally rebound-challenged Celtics did a praiseworthy job of keeping the Cavs, especially the relentless Varejao, off the boards. The Celtics won the first-half rebounding battle 18-14 and kept Varejao to four rebounds, one offensive, although the curly-haired Brazilian did score a team-high 12 points.
The Good: Paul Pierce is Paul Pierce. What more is there to say? Pierce went 5-of-6 from the field and hit his only 3-point attempt for 11 points in 19 first-half minutes. The de facto point guard in Rajon Rondo's absence, Pierce only had two assists, but that's nitpicking. … Ray Allen's range begins when he walks into the gym, and even after missing three games with a jammed ankle, he came ready to play. Allen went 5-for-8 overall and 2-for-4 from deep in the first half for 12 points. … Kyrie Irving is every bit as good as advertised. The No. 1 pick in the 2011 draft didn't miss any of his four shots and handed out four assists with just a single turnover. He entered halftime with nine points in 15:20.
The Bad: Antawn Jamison went 2-for-6 and contributed just a single rebound and assist in 15 minutes. If not for Varejao's energy, the Cavs frontcourt would look glaringly outmatched.
The So-so: The Celtics need to find a way to may the offense work when Garnett or Bass isn't operating in the high post. The Cavs are not concerned with Greg Stiemsma setting picks on the perimeter, and if the Cavs aren't worried about it in January, the Bulls won't be worried about it in May.
Second quarter, :21, Cavs 44-43: Nothing speaks volumes as much as the time out with 21 seconds left in the half. Rivers really seemed upset with Boston's play in the back-and-forth second quarter, and with the offense in a bit of disarray wanted to draw up a set play.
Second quarter, 2:29, game tied 37-37: Pierce has always had a little bit of "old man" in his game, so when he does something like use an inside-out dribble and a quick first step to burn his defender, it can be surprising.
Pierce left the Cavs in his dust with a burst to the hoop for a dunk to tie it up, bringing a roar from the startled Garden crowd.
Second quarter, 5:50, Cavs 35-33: Garnett and Wilcox left the game — you know, because human beings need rest — and the Cavs lost their fear of going to the hoop. The Celtics' offense also stalled, leading to a 6-2 Cleveland run.
Turnovers led to a layup by Ramon Sessions and a dunk by Casspi. Stiemsma is a capable defender, but the Cavs seemed content to leave him be to double-team another Celtic.
Second quarter, 7:06, Celtics 33-31: It irks Allen when people say he could wake up and hit a game-winning 3, because it implies that his shot comes naturally and hasn't been honed by hours of practice.
That said, Allen could probably wake up and hit a game-winning 3.
Allen showed no signs of rust from his time off, nailing four of his first six shots, including 2-of-3 from downtown.
End of first quarter, Celtics 24-23: The storyline of this game started developing as the Cavaliers' lunchpail game against the Celtics' ball movement.
Led by Varejao, the Cavs got some hustle baskets and led for most of the first quarter. Once Pierce, Garnett and the Celtics got into their offensive rhythm, though, the Celtics started to take control in the closing minutes of the frame.
No play summed this up like the one that temporarily tied the game at 21-21. Pierce and Garnett executed a perfect pick and roll, and as Garnett received the pass from Pierce, KG made a touch pass to Wilcox for a dunk. A 3 by Pierce gave the Celtics their first lead since the 6:48 mark.
First quarter, 4:28, Cavs 19-15: Four straight points by Bass gave the Celtics an 11-9 lead, but it didn't last long against the young and enthusiastic Cavs.
Varejao made trouble for the Celtics on the boards with three rebounds in the first eight minutes, including a putback to put the Cavs up by two. Irving spun around Bass on a fast break to give the Cavs a four-point lead, prompting a Boston timeout.
First quarter, 8:51, game tied 7-7: First game back, one shot, one make for Allen.
Allen received a pass from Pierce and nailed a 3-pointer to bring the Celtics within 7-5. A putback by Garnett tied it up.
7:30 p.m.: Another win would stretch the Celtics' win streak to five games, but more importantly, it would keep them ahead of the Cavs in the playoff race.
You read that right.
The lowly Cavaliers are just two games behind the Celtics in the loss column. Boston holds the No. 7 seed in the East after using their current win streak to vault back into the playoff picture.
Ray Allen will start for the Celtics, making a comeback after missing 3 1/2 games with a jammed left ankle.
8 a.m.: The shorthanded Celtics play an early game Sunday, looking for their fifth straight victory.
Center Jermaine O'Neal hopes for a return after missing two games with a sore left knee, but the status of Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen and others remains uncertain. Among the many surprise contributors during the four-game win streak, the Celtics have been lucky to have Mickael Pietrus, who averaged 12.5 points in two starts last week.
Drop in for updates and analysis during the game, which is scheduled to tip off at 6 p.m.
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