The Boston Celtics with 4:24 left to play in their game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at the “New Garden” on Sunday, appeared poised to win their fifth consecutive game after Brandon Bass split a pair at the line giving them an 87-76 advantage. Those would be the final points scored by the home team and it turned out they would not be enough as the Cavaliers closed out the contest on a 12-0 run and defeated Boston 88-87. Cleveland rookie point guard Kyrie Irving drove the lane with 2.6 seconds left on the clock to win the game and he led his team with a game high 23 points in the come from behind victory.
The Celtics welcomed back Ray Allen to the starting lineup after sitting out the past few games with a sprained wrist and he knocked down 22 points in the contest to lead the club. Boston shot 52.2% (36-69) for the night; however the Cavaliers dominated on fast break points (15-2) as well as points in the paint (54-32). That combined with Cleveland stepping up their defensive presence in the final minutes were the keys to the game.
The first 12 minutes of play were tight throughout, as the two opponents exchanged the lead several times in the period. With 38 seconds remaining Paul Pierce stroked a 25 foot trey giving the Celtics a razor-thin advantage of 24-23 at the conclusion of the quarter. The competitive play continued into the second as neither team led by more than two points at any time in the period. Anderson Varejao knocked down a mid-range jumper with 25 seconds left and as the contest reached the half Cleveland held the upper hand at 44-43.
The tone of the game changed when the two teams returned to the floor for the third; with the home team dominating the period and put some distance between themselves and their opponents. Boston led by double-digits for much of the quarter but would settle for a 70-62 lead at the conclusion of the period. The Celtics looked like they were ready to wrap things up when their offense got stuck in neutral and the Cavaliers took full advantage of the situation. Boston had plenty of opportunities down the stretch yet failed to capitalize on any and Cleveland would take the contest in the final seconds.
Irving knocked down 23 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds and a steal while Varejao scored 18 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals. Alonzo Gee came off the bench with 14 points, 6 rebounds and 4 steals while Antawn Jamison had 10 points, 3 rebounds and 1 assist.
Allen returned to the Celtics lineup with 22 points, 3 assists, 3 rebounds and a steal while Paul Pierce had 18 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists. Kevin Garnett added 14 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, a block and a steal while Brandon Bass put up 13 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, a block and a steal. Cleveland improves to 8-11 while Boston drops to 9-10; the two clubs will play each other again on Tuesday in Cleveland.