Celtics Take Down Short-Handed Cavaliers, Move Step Closer To Playoffs

LeBron James decided not to take Friday night off, but that ultimately didn’t matter for the Boston Celtics, who knocked off James’ Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena to take another huge step toward securing a spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

The 99-90 victory did, however, come against a Cleveland team that was without starting point guard Kyrie Irving and reserve guard Iman Shumpert, and that gave its deep reserves far more playing time than usual.

That came as no surprise — after clinching the No. 2 seed in the East on Monday, the Cavs have nothing to play for until the postseason rolls around. The Celtics, meanwhile, retained their hold on the No. 7 seed with the win and reduced their magic number to two.

Against a shorthanded Cavs lineup less than enthused by the prospect of playing in a meaningless game (for them), the Celtics were able to open up an 11-point lead by the end of the first quarter.

Boston came out flying, and its backcourt was especially active. Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley combined for 19 of the team’s 28 points in the first, and Isaiah Thomas sank a long jumper on his first possession. Smart was feeling it early, making his first four field-goal attempts, including two from 3-point range, for a quick 10 points.

The second quarter played out pretty much exactly like its predecessor. The Celtics reeled off an 8-0 run late in the frame that was snapped only by a Matthew Dellavedova buzzer-beater, sending Boston into the locker room with a 54-40 lead.

The Celtics shot the ball at a 54.5 percent clip in the first half, nearly a full 20 percentage points better than the Cavaliers (36.6 percent). The vast majority of those shots were jumpers, too. Cleveland showed no desire to defend the pick-and-roll, resulting in open look after open look.

The Cavs, who had won their previous 18 home games, ultimately did decide to show up, whittling the Celtics’ advantage from 14 points down to one with a 12-0 run in the third quarter. Brandon Bass canned a jumper to stop the bleeding, but Mike Miller followed with a three to tie the game up at 68 apiece.

Miller, who had made just one field goal since Jan. 28, scored 11 points in the third quarter on 3-of-3 shooting, and the Celtics led by just two, 79-77, entering the fourth.

That final quarter was all Celtics, however, as neither James (14 points, seven assists) nor Kevin Love (19 points, six rebounds) left the bench in the fourth. Smart (19 points), Bradley (15 points, four assists, two steals) and Thomas (14 points, five assists) all finished the game in double figures for the Celtics, and Evan Turner set a new career high with 13 assists.

Thomas was the only Boston player to have success in the paint, earning eight trips to the foul line and converting on seven.

Up next: Let’s do this again Sunday, shall we? The Cavs visit the C’s for a matinee to close out their season series. If the Celtics are lucky, James will opt to sit that one out.

Thumbnail photo via David Richard/USA TODAY Sports Images

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