Celtics Live Blog: Paul Pierce, C’s Survive Another Comeback By Cavs, Earn 93-90 Win

by abournenesn

Jan 31, 2012

Celtics Live Blog: Paul Pierce, C's Survive Another Comeback By Cavs, Earn 93-90 WinEnd of game, Celtics win 93-90: Never in doubt, right? Garnett got a friendly roll on a fallaway, and the Celtics needed to make two stops on defense before an inbounds to Pierce, who iced it with two free throws.

Irving hit a meaningless 3 at the buzzer for Cleveland, who narrowly missed another embarrassing upset of the Celtics.

Paul Pierce led the Celtics with 20 points, or as many points as Cavs center Anderson Varejao had rebounds.

Fourth quarter, 1:18, Celtics 89-87: Losing a double-digit lead once is bad. Losing a double-digit lead to the same team in the second consecutive game is something else entirely.

Bass made a couple clutch jumpers to hold the Cavs off, but after Pierce tweaked his ankle while drawing a foul on Varejao, a Gee jumper and a layup by Irving pulled the Cavs within two with 78 seconds remaining.

Fourth quarter, 4:26, Celtics 84-77: The Cavs have never led after halftime, but it appears that might change in the final minutes.

Garnett hit a jumper and found Pierce on a cut to briefly stem the tide and give the C's an 11-point lead until the Cavs responded with a jumper by Irving and a dish from Sessions to Jamison for a layup.

Rivers called a quick time out to make sure another collapse isn't in the works.

Fourth quarter, 5:49, Celtics 80-73: The Celtics may be having flashbacks to Sunday as the Cavs mounted a comeback in the fourth quarter yet again.

A Garnett dunk ended the Celtics' fourth-quarter scoring drought at the 8:14 mark, but jumpers by Sessions and Irving as well as a 3 by Gee pulled the Cavs within seven. Pierce fought them off for a moment with a spin move to a layup, but Sessions came right back with a floater to narrow the gap again.

Varejao has 19 rebounds. The Celtics have 27 rebounds as a team.

Fourth quarter, 8:25, Celtics 76-64: The Celtics have yet to score in the fourth quarter.

Apparently forgetting what happened in the last fourth quarter they played against the Cavs, the Celtics fell into the same bad habits they did Sunday. Holding what appeared to be a comfortable lead, the Celtics settled for outside shots, with Garnett in particular taking two off-balanced jumpers from about 22 feet out.

Varejao grabbed his 10th offensive board, giving him more offensive rebounds than any Celtics player has total rebounds.

End of third quarter, Celtics 76-58: You've got to hand it to Alonzo Gee. He does one thing really well — jump — and he capitalizes by going hard to the hoop. In fact, he's a basketball advanced-stat geek's dream; virtually all he takes are dunks or 3-pointers.

Gee took off about midway between the free throw line and the hoop for a loud right-handed dunk over Wilcox. Gee's free throw pulled the Cavs within 18 points.

Allen rediscovered his shooting touch and the Celtics rode him to a wide lead that hit as many as 22 points. After a jumper by Mychel Thompson cut the Celtics' advantage to 14 points, Allen hit two 3's to give him 12 points in the third quarter after a scoreless first half.

Third quarter, 5:28, Celtics 67-51: Typically, closing a 19-point advantage to 16 points wouldn't merit a time out by the team in the lead. Coming off a shocking loss in which the Celtics blew an 11-point lead with four minutes to go, however, Rivers was taking no chances.

Varejao — there's that name again — slipped into the lane without a box out and scored a putback for his 18th point and seventh offensive rebound.

Third quarter, 9:02, Celtics 61-44: The Celtics kept sharing the ball and the lead kept growing in the early going of the third quarter.

Garnett found O'Neal twice undeneath the basket for dunks and Ray scored six points in the first 2:58 as the C's sprinted to their largest lead of the game at 17 points. All four of the Celtics' four field goals were assisted.

So far, Irving has looked like the rookie he is. These are the types of games a team has to tolerate with a rookie, even one as uniquely talented as Irving. Some games he'll score 32 points, as he did Friday against the Nets. Other games he'll go 2-for-7 from the field through two-plus quarters.

Halftime, Celtics 51-39: Ray Allen had one of the worst shooting halves of his season, but he assumed the recent role of Paul Pierce by creating shots for others.

Allen handed out five assists in the first half to offset his 0-for-3 shooting. The Celtics shared the ball so well in the first 24 minutes, they shot 53 percent without a single player scoring in double digits.

Here as always is the good, the bad and the so-so.

The Good: The offensive attack came from everywhere for the Celtics in the first half. Pierce was the high scorer with nine points on 4-of-8 shooting in 18 minutes. Brandon Bass was right behind with eight points on 4-for-5 shooting and added six rebounds in 14:13. Kevin Garnett did not shot as well at 2-for-7, but he had seven points and three rebounds in 14:31. … Anderson Varejao is bound to cool down. A reliable midrange shooter and infamous scrapper, the Cavs center scored 14 points and grabbed seven rebounds in the first half. He missed just three of his 10 attempts in 20:35 of work.

The Bad: Omri Casspi had no shortage of aggressiveness in just over 12 minutes on the court. The problem is, his aggressiveness did not lead to anything positive for Cleveland. Casspi went 1-for-4 from the field (although his one make was a 3), missed two free throws and committed two fouls.

The So-so: Jermaine O'Neal was back at the offensive end, nailing two of his three shots and hitting both his free throws for six points. But he consistently left Varejao open on the perimeter and grabbed only two rebounds in 12:52. … It is difficult to criticize Kyrie Irving for a half in which he dished out five assists and didn't commit a single turnover, but without his four foul shots his scoring line would look ugly. He scored six points despite shooting 1-for-5 from the field in a notch under 19 minutes.

The leaders in backcourt scoring for the Celtics in the first half were Mickael Pietrus and Avery Bradley with six points each.


Second quarter, 2:43, Celtics 45-36: The lead grew back to a comfortable margin for Boston, thanks to O'Neal.

The big man scored six straight Celtics points, including a couple of jumpers, to restore the Celtics' nine-point lead.

Second quarter, 5:10, Celtics 37-33: Maybe it's the organist. Maybe there's something in the air. Maybe it's that intoxicating "wine" color on the Cavs' jerseys.

For whatever reason, the Celtics can't seem to avoid falling into lulls against the Cavs. The scrappy Cavs scored eight straight points, led by Varejao, i.e. the second coming of Bob McAdoo, to pull back within two possessions.

Of Varejao's 14 points, eight have come off jump shots.

Second quarter, 7:40, Celtics 37-26: The 3-pointer is the most efficient shot in basketball, and the Celtics are using it to their advantage in an efficient offensive performance thus far in Cleveland.

Moore drilled a 3 after Allen drew the attention of the defense, stretching Boston's run to 11-2 as the Celtics took their largest lead of the game at 11 points.

Second quarter, 10:39, Celtics 32-24: Sasha Pavlovic has shown that he can do some good things when healthy. His putback ended the scoring in the first quarter, and after a free throw line jumper by E'Twaun Moore, Pavlovic rounded out a 6-0 run with a short jumper off a feed by Garnett.

Say this for the Cavs: In the Rock & Roll City, they have the best arena music.

End of first quarter, Celtics 28-24: Shots were falling for the Celtics in the first quarter, but the Cavs' aim was just as good.

Cleveland shot 56 percent and went 5-for-6 from the free throw line in the first quarter, including 4-for-4 by Irving. The Celtics shot 57 percent and were fortunate to get a pair of 3's from Pietrus to help keep them ahead.

The Celtics eliminated the Cavs' most effective form of scoring by limiting the Cavs to one offensive rebound. Boston also helped itself by committing only one turnover.

First quarter, 1:51, Celtics 25-20: This time a month and a half ago, the Raptors decided they didn't want Mickael Pietrus. The swingman showed some worrisome signs on a physical and Toronto nixed a trade that would have brought him from Phoenix. The Suns waived him shortly after.

Pietrus ended up with the Celtics, and it's a good thing for them. Pietrus came off the bench to nail two 3-pointers and give the C's an early edge over the Cavs.

First quarter, 5:00, Celtics 15-13: Another back-and-forth affair is in the works in Cleveland, where the Celtics just can't seem to shake the pesky Cavs.

Wilt Chamberlain — excuse me, Anderson Varejao added a putback to give him eight points, although Garnett is giving him work at the offensve end with a pair of jumpers and a free throw.

Irving knows how to run an offense, and at 19 years old might already be in the top third of the league at his position.

First quarter, 8:16, game tied 6-6: Varejao came to score without the aid of offensive rebounds.

Varejao knocked down his first three shot attempts to score all the Cavs' points in the first four minutes.

Apologies for the error with Cleveland's starting lineup. Gee was a projected starter but Mychel Thompson got the start at shooting guard.

7 p.m.: Kyrie Irving was outstanding on Sunday well before his game-winning shot. The rookie point guard has 26 points and six assists, and Doc Rivers commented that Irving willed the Cavs to that win.

The more crucial player for the Celtics to shut down, though, might be center Anderson Varejao. Varejao leads the league with 4.4 offensive rebounds per game and the Cavs dominated the Celtics on the offensive glass 11-5 in their last meeting. Second-chance points have been a worry for the Celtics all season, but unlike some other opponents the Cavs are a team the Celtics could potentially run out of the building if they rebound effectively. Cleveland shot an effective field goal percentage of less than 45 percent on Sunday.

O'Neal's return should help the Celtics in that respect.

6:45 p.m.: Anthony Parker and Daniel Gibson are out for the Cavs as just about every team in the NBA can use the word "shorthanded" to describe itself right now.

Parker has a sore lower back and Gibson has a scary-sounding "neck infection," the Cleveland Plain-Dealer reports. Gibson, who did not play Sunday, has been hospitalized in Boston and is being treated with antibiotics. Yuck.

Compared to that, a sore left knee doesn't seem so bad. Jermaine O'Neal is back in the lineup with just that injury after missing three games after banging knees with Hedo Turkoglu last Monday. That leaves Rajon Rondo, who will miss his seventh straight game with what has only been described as a "sore" right wrist, as the only member missing from the Celtics' regular starting lineup.

The projected starting lineups are below.

Jermaine O'Neal
Kevin Garnett
Paul Pierce
Ray Allen
Avery Bradley

Anderson Varejao
Antawn Jamison
Omri Casspi
Alonzo Gee
Kyrie Irving 

8 a.m.: After giving up 12 unanswered points to close out Sunday's loss, the Celtics travel to Cleveland looking for a measure of revenge against the Cavs.

Ray Allen is expected to make his second start since returning from an ankle injury, and although Paul Pierce was upset over his playing time in the fourth quarter Sunday, he gave no indication that his unhappiness would carry over to the next game.

The Cavs (8-11) go for two in a row against the Celtics (9-10), who try to get back to .500.

Join us for updates and analysis during the game, which is set to tip off at 7 p.m.

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