With starters Kyrie Irving and Marcus Morris Sr. out, the Boston Celtics had to grind it out on the road against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
While it wasn’t pretty at times, Boston finished strong, opening up the lead in the fourth quarter to come away with a 103-96 win on the road Tuesday night.
Jayson Tatum led the Celtics with 25 points, going 12-for-12 from the free throw line. Gordon Hayward looked impressive off the bench, finishing with 18 points. Marcus Smart (17) and Jaylen Brown (13) each factored in with double-digit points. Collin Sexton paced the Cavs with a game-high 27 points while Alec Burks had 21.
The Celtics move to 35-19 with the win, while the Cavaliers fall to 11-43 with the loss.
Here’s how it all went down:
PG: Terry Rozier
SG: Marcus Smart
SF: Jaylen Brown
PF: Jayson Tatum
C: Al Horford
The Celtics felt the absence of Morris early, being out-rebounded 13-8 as the Cavs were able to come out of the first quarter with a slight 30-28 edge. Cleveland came up with seven offensive rebounds
It was a slow opening couple of minutes as both teams tried to find their footing. The Cavs used a 10-2 run over a 2:07 span to open up a 12-7 lead.
Smart drained a pull-up 3-pointer to narrow the Cavs lead to 16-14 with 5:31 to play in the quarter. Things went back and forth for the next two minutes as Tatum’s lay-in gave the C’s a 22-21 lead with 2:36. The teams continued to trade baskets for the rest of the quarter.
Tatum led the C’s with 10 points, going 6-for-6 from the free throw line. Horford had six assists in the opening 12.
BIG RUN GIVES C’s LEAD
The Celtics used a big run in the second quarter to pull ahead, outscoring their opponents 31-21, and were able to maintain their narrow lead as they took a 59-51 lead into the break.
The Cavs got back-to-back 3-pointers from Sexton and Larry Nance Jr. to grab a 36-30 lead in the early goings of the second. The C’s came back with a 12-0 run over the next 3:12, highlighted by a pair of Brown transition dunks, to take a 42-36 lead with 6:51 left in the half.
Burks brought the Cavs back within one, sinking a jumper after a nice spin move in the paint while drawing a foul. The and-one made it 44-43 with 4:53 to play in the half.
The teams traded baskets for the next three minutes, but back-to-back 3-pointers from Horford and Rozier, who drilled a trey just before the halftime buzzer, gave the Celtics their biggest lead of the game heading into halftime.
Sexton led all scorers with 18 points at halftime. Tatum led Boston with 13 points.
C’s STILL IN FRONT
After squandering their halftime lead, the C’s were able to recover behind a solid quarter from Tatum, taking an 85-79 lead into the fourth.
The Celtics got off to a slow start in opening 12 of the second half, hitting just two of their first 12 shots in the third quarter. That allowed the Cavs to go on a 12-5 run to regain a 65-64 lead with 6:49 to play in the third off a Sexton jumper.
Smart evened the game at 70, converting a four-point play with 5:09 to go. Back-to-back baskets from Tatum pushed the Celtics up 74-70 with 3:18 remaining.
Brown gave the Celtics an 81-75 lead with a straightaway trey. On the other end, Daniel Theis emphatically denied Jordan Clarkson’s layup bid. Hayward gave the C’s their first double-digit lead with a 19-footer to make it 85-75.
The Cavs closed the quarter on a 4-0 run.
C’S SECURE ROAD WIN
After allowing the Cavs to creep back in, the C’s responded, pushing the lead back out to double digits midway through the fourth to help secure the victory.
Boston still could not pull away in the early minutes of the fourth, as the Cavs continued to hang around, with Matthew Delladova drilling a fadeaway 3-pointer to narrow Boston’s lead to 90-87 with 9:37 to play. The home team continued to linger, as the Celtics were able to push their back up to five when Hayward dished to Brad Wannamaker for a transition layup to make it 94-89 with 6:54 left in regulation.
The C’s maintained that five-point advantage as the game dwindled down to the final five minutes. Smart pushed it 99-91 with his fourth 3-pointer. Tatum followed, putting the visitors back up by 10 with a spin move and lay in.
Burks’ trey pulled the Cavs back within five to make it 101-96 with 1:54 left. But that was as close as the hosts would come down the stretch.
PLAY OF THE GAME
Brown bringing the breeze with this windmill dunk.
The Celtics will return to Boston for a tilt with the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday. Tip-off from TD Garden is set for 8 p.m. ET.
Thumbnail photo via David Richard/USA TODAY Sports Images