BOSTON – Early in the third quarter, Brandon Bass (15 points) lost the ball in a triple-team, but came up with it well beyond the arc. Seven seconds were still on the shot clock, but he still launched a wild, one-footed trey. He hit it. It was just his second three ball of his career. The first also came against Cleveland earlier this season.
Bass also came up with the biggest defensive play of the night, swatting away the layup attempt by Dion Waiters (17 points) with eight seconds left, Boston clinging to a two-point lead at the time.
Much to the chagrin of Celtics fans, the Boston Celtics (13-17) nearly gave up a 19-point lead they took into the final 12 minutes, but held on to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers (10-19) 103-100 at home on Saturday afternoon.
After nearly an entire week off -- the first time the team didn’t play on Christmas since 2007 -- Boston cruised through the first half.
Jeff Green (tied Jordan Crawford for a team-high 19 points), lead the way with 15 points. He made two three-pointers, got to the line, and attacked the rim. On a drive in the second quarter, Green powered his way past multiple defenders and used a soft touch while drawing the foul (he made the free throw to complete the and-1) to give Boston a 54-40 lead with 1:39 left in the first half.
When Green is aggressive, that's when he and this Celtics team is at their best.
The biggest storyline of the game happened before tip-off. Cleveland announced that Bynum would be suspended indefinitely for “conduct detrimental to the team.” The Cavs are placing him on the trading block.
Boston might be a team that Bynum could end up on. But there will be plenty of time to speculate the big man’s future.
The Cavaliers have had trouble finding a consistent secondary option on offense to pair with Kyrie Irving. Today, they needed just a little more help.
The All-Star point guard scored a game-high 32 points on 13-22 shooting, including 4-6 from three point range. Irving was magnificent, slicing and dicing his way through the Celtics defense.
However, the Celtics don't have just one guy who can beat you. Boston had six players score double digits and three had at least 18 points.
At the break, Boston lead 59-44. In five of their last six games, the Celtics have been outscored in the second half. That trend continued thanks to Irving.
Kyrie Irving was magnificent for Cleveland. Slicing and dicing his way through Boston’s defense. His penetration set up the Cavs for many open threes. Boston came into the game with the fourth-best 3-point field goal percentage defense, allowing teams to hit just 33.3% of their long-balls. Cleveland made half of their 18 attempts from downtown.
The Celtics gave up 34 points, while scoring just 18 points themselves, in the fourth quarter, nearly squandering another big lead.
Brad Stevens and his team can breathe a little easier as they look to finish off 2013 with a win over the Atlanta Hawks -- who just lost Al Horford with a torn right pectoral muscle -- on Tuesday at 1pm Eastern.