Avery Bradley, Kyrie IrvingFinal, Cavs 97-91: Doc Rivers is not likely to be in a good mood after this one. After a ho-hum start for his shorthanded squad, Rivers saw his team turn it on late and had a chance in the final minute. But a questionable over-the-back call on Brandon Bass nixed an opportunity to make it a one-possession game, and the Celtics came away with a loss.

Jeff Green delivered 23 points and nine rebounds in the defeat, and Shavlik Randolph pitched in a career-high 16 points with seven rebounds.

Tristan Thompson and the Cavs were just too much, especially down low. Thompson posted a career-high 29 points, plus 17 rebounds, seven of which were offensive. Alonzo Gee also had a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds, while a nicked-up Kyrie Irving had 11 points and eight assists. The Cavs outrebounded the Celtics 58-42.

The biggest cause for concern from the game is not the loss or the absences of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, both of whom are expected back Sunday. No, the biggest concern might be Avery Bradley leaving the game after taking an elbow from Irving, although Bradley did later return to the bench.

Fourth quarter, 1:22, Cavs 96-87: Well, the Bucks are in the process of most likely losing to the Knicks, so at least the Celtics will not lose any ground in the East playoff race. This is about as much as can be expected from a team missing its two top players (not counting Rajon Rondo, who is out of the equation now).

Bradley is back on the bench, but he is not coming back into this game now. It will take a crazy effort from Green, Terry and the bunch to come out with a victory now.

Fourth quarter, 3:18, Cavs 91-83: As Terry pulls up for a three, Rivers calls timeout and the whistle blows just before the ball swishes through the net. It has been that kind of night for the Celtics.

With just over three minutes to go, the Celtics are trying to fight back. They will have to do it without Bradley, who headed to the locker room after play had stopped. It looks like it may be connected to the elbow from Irving he took to the left of his neck/collarbone.

Fourth quarter, 5:44, Cavs 87-83: It has been chippy for a while, and now the Celtics have decided to finally match Cleveland’s toughness.

Randolph finally fouled out, putting in a solid night’s work of 16 points and seven rebounds in 13 minutes. Now the Celtics will be small the rest of the way, with Green essentially playing power forward with three guards and Bass at center.

Even with a smaller lineup, the Celtics might actually be protecting the rim better. Bradley and Green sold out to block Thompson at the rim, and Crawford showed some solidarity by shoving Thompson after he set a hard screen on Bradley.

Terry’s corner three pulled the Celtics within four points, prompting Cavs coach Byron Scott to take a timeout to regroup.

Fourth quarter, 9:19, Cavs 82-68: The Celtics need to show some fight, and it needs to come from somebody other than the 7-footer who was playing in China a little more than a month ago. It also needs to come in the form of something other than an ill-advised flagrant near halfcourt.

The Celtics have given up eight straight points to begin the fourth quarter, which is not the way to close out a last-place opponent on your home floor.

Fourth quarter, 10:19, Cavs 76-68: Not sure why Terry did this, but the Celtics guard just lowered a shoulder and knocked C.J. Miles to the floor as the Cavs swingman dribbled up the court. It’s an easy flagrant 1 call, which gives Miles two shots and possession for the Cavs.

End of third quarter, Cavs 74-68: Heading into the final 12 minutes, the Celtics will benefit from having Pierce on their side.

Oh, yeah. Never mind.

Well, at least they have Kevin Garn– oh, right. They don’t have him, either.

The Celtics usually feel pretty good in these situations, down by a handful at home heading into the fourth, but they will need to find a way to pull this one out without the Truth or the Big Ticket.

Third quarter, 1:56, Cavs 70-65: Randolph heads to the bench with five fouls, which is a bit of a problem for the Celtics, since he has been their top big man. Still, that does not take much.

Wilcox has struggled, but Randolph has not been as sharp as his 14 points and six boards implies. He has been out of position or battling unnecessarily to pick up those five fouls, and the Celtics’ lead went from a seven-point advantage to a three-point deficit with him on the floor. (Gee added a dunk after Randolph left to make up the current margin.)

It almost seems like Rivers is trying to find the weirdest lineup combination possible to still be competitive in this game.

Third quarter, 8:07, Celtics 62-55: This is the Celtics’ chance to put the game away. They are off to a 10-3 run to begin the second half, with Green and Bradley providing threes to push the Celtics into their largest lead since they led by eight midway through the second quarter.

Halftime, game tied 52-52: The Celtics are scoring in bunches, but they are not playing a lick of defense. Their saving grace is that the Cavs are not playing much D, either.

It’s not so much that the teams are hitting a lot of shots, since they are both shooting in the mid-to-high 40s from the floor. The type of shots they are getting just seem so easy. Despite constantly running up and down the floor, the game is tied and neither team has put together a long run to take control, even though five players have double figures in points so far.

Randolph remains the high man for the Celtics with 13 points, while Thompson has 21 points with an array of post buckets and finishes out of the screen and roll. If the Celtics could just hit their free throws — they are 8-for-15 on foul shots — they could have a comfortable lead.

Second quarter, 5:54, Celtics 40-37: The bench has been so dramatically better here, it is ridiculous. Not only is Randolph throwing his body around, but Terrence Williams is shaking up the Cavs guards with his handle.

All told, the bench is a cumulative plus-34. The starters are a cumulative minus-19.

Second quarter, 8:50, Celtics 37-31: The Celtics sure are fortunate to have Shavlik Randolph.

Wait, did I really just type that?

The Celtics hold an all-too-rare advantage on the glass, 16-12, and it is almost entirely due to Randolph. He has five rebounds (four offensive) and a career-high 13 points in less than five minutes of action. He has also taken the role formerly occupied by Jared Sullinger and Greg Stiemsma as the officials’ whipping boy, though, picking up two personal fouls.

End of first quarter, Celtics 28-26: With two All-Stars sidelined, this was just the type of game where the Celtics needed a guy like Shavlik Randolph to step up.

With Lee, Wilcox and Bradley continuing and worrying trend of suffering some defensive lapses, Rivers brought Randolph off the bench to bring some early energy. He brought just that. Randolph has hit his first three shots and has three offensive rebounds to help Boston retake the lead.

The Celtics’ lead could be even greater if they could hit their foul shots. They were 2-for-8 from the line in the first quarter. Chalk it up to great defense, maybe. No? OK.

First quarter, 5:44, Cavs 17-14: Bradley takes pride in being able to take the ball from just about any ballhandler, but he might want to avoid reaching for one night. Irving, maybe the sickest ballhandler the league has seen since a young Allen Iverson, easily dribbled behind his back to lose Bradley after a reach in the backcourt and fed Thompson for a simple push-shot.

On the offensive end, things are going better for the Celtics. They are generating good shots, whether they be jump shots for Bass or looks driving to the hoop for Green. The only bad news for them is that Green picked up two quick fouls, forcing him to the bench after hitting his first two shots.

6:55 p.m.: Kyrie Irving will be in action for the second straight game, playing through the aftereffects of a sprained shoulder. That gives this game at least some star power, since every other All-Star on either team’s roster will be out.

Paul Pierce, who played 33 minutes in Wednesday’s win over Detroit, is out with a sore ankle. He joins Kevin Garnett as unavailable All-Stars for the Celtics.

In more news that will probably disappoint some fans, the team has postponed the awarding of the Red Auerbach award to another night. What a shame.

The projected starters appear below.

Tyler Zeller
Tristan Thompson
Alonzo Gee
Wayne Ellington
Kyrie Irving

Chris Wilcox
Brandon Bass
Jeff Green
Courtney Lee
Avery Bradley

5:05 p.m.: The Celtics had their team photo this afternoon, which is only notable because Paul Pierce called the players back after their official photo to have another photo taken with the team’s ball boys.

Check it out in the tweet below.

[tweet https://twitter.com/BenjeeBallgame/status/320279248810164226 align=’center’]

4:25 p.m.: With only four home games remaining, the Celtics will present the Red Auerbach award to a lucky Celtics player.

The team did not announce who would receive the award in a pregame ceremony, but if it goes to Kevin Garnett, he may have to accept it in street clothes. Garnett is still not expected to play, with Celtics coach Doc Rivers fingering Sunday’s game against the Wizards as a possible return date.

Jeff Green will stay in the starting lineup, which is not the worst news for the Celtics. Green is averaging 22.5 points, 5.9 rebounds and 3.4 assists in 11 games as a starter, compared to 10.9 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.2 assists off the bench.

8 a.m. ET: The last time the Celtics and Cavaliers met up, Jeff Green provided a thrilling ending. The Celtics would probably prefer if things were not so exciting this time.

Having snapped their two-game losing streak with a victory over the Pistons on Wednesday, the Celtics (39-36) are back in action. Their opponent is the Cavs (22-52), who are having a forgettable season despite giving the Celtics three tough efforts this season. Stuck at the bottom of the Central Division, the Cavs have a shortage of talent, and that has been compounded by severe injuries to Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Anderson Varejao.

The Celtics cannot afford to take the Cavs — or any team — lightly, however. The Celtics hold just a 2 1/2-game edge on the Bucks for the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference, and nobody wants to fall to eighth, which would mean taking on the powerhouse Heat in the first round. Kevin Garnett will not be back, but Celtics coach Doc Rivers seemed optimistic at practice on Thursday that Garnett would be back for Sunday’s game against Washington.

Join us for updates and analysis from TD Garden during the game, which tips off at 7:30 p.m. ET.