BOSTON — The last time the Cleveland Cavaliers were at TD Garden they were celebrating as LeBron James carried them to a win in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals and a fourth straight NBA Finals appearance.
Things were a little different Friday night.
Without James, the Cavs had little hope of matching up with the more talented Boston Celtics. Cleveland hung tough in the first half, but the C’s eventually flexed their muscles and blew the doors off the corpse of what James left behind, tallying a 128-95 win.
Kyrie Irving scored a game-high 29 points in three quarters to lead the Celtics, while Marcus Morris (15), Gordon Hayward (14), Jayson Tatum (13), Marcus Smart (12), Terry Rozier (10) and Aron Baynes (10) also scored in double figures.
With the win, the Celtics improved to 12-10, while the Cavs fall to 4-17.
Here’s how it all went down:
PG: Kyrie Irving
SG: Marcus Smart
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Marcus Morris
C: Aron Baynes
Boston was without both Jaylen Brown (back) and Al Horford (planned rest), which thrust Baynes and Smart into the starting lineup.
The Celtics made it look easy to start the game, opening the game on a 9-2 run over the first 2:27 to force Cleveland to take a timeout.
Despite poor offensive play from the Cavs, Boston was unable to extend its lead. Cleveland went on a 9-4 run over the next 3:22 capped by an and-1 from Rodney Hood to cut the lead to 13-11.
The two clubs traded baskets for the remainder of the frame with the Celtics holding a 30-26 lead after one.
Irving led all scorers with 13 in the frame while Tristan Thompson paced the Cavs with seven.
C’S EXTEND THE LEAD
Boston’s defense fell asleep to begin the second quarter and Cleveland took advantage, going on an 11-8 run over the first 4:10 of the frame to take a 39-38 lead. Jordan Clarkson and Alec Burks each tallied five points in the opening flurry for the Cavs. Boston’s offense also sputtered early in the second as only Tatum and Hayward were able to tickle the twine for the C’s.
The game remained close throughout the second with the Celtics holding a two-point edge with under three to play, but Boston ended the half on a 15-5 run to give itself some breathing room.
After a Hayward bucket, Smart stole the ball from Larry Nance Jr. and raced down the court for an uncontested dunk. Baynes then got dunks on the next two possessions off pretty feeds from Irving and Hayward to swell the lead to 10.
After the Cavs cut the lead to seven, Morris banged a 3-pointer at the horn to give Boston a 62-52 lead at the break.
Irving was the high man with 19 in the half, while Thompson led Cleveland with 13.
The talent margin on the floor finally began to show in the third quarter as the Celtics stretched their lead to 21 with under six to play in the third quarter. The Celtics got whatever they wanted on offense during the first half of the frame, with Irving, Smart and Morris each connecting from long range.
The Cavs showed little resistance in the rest of the quarter as Boston led 101-72 after three.
Irving tallied 29 points through three quarters while Thompson and Clarkson paced Cleveland with 13 a piece.
With the game in hand, Brad Stevens emptied his bench in the fourth quarter. Brad Wanamaker, Robert Williams, Guerschon Yabusele, Semi Ojeleye and PJ Dozier got a majority of run in the final frame for Boston.
PLAY OF THE GAME
The Celtics will take the floor again Saturday when they travel to Minnesota to face the Timberwolves. Tip-off at Target Center is set for 8 p.m. ET.
Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images