Throughout the All-Star break, rumors were rampant about the various trade scenarios the Boston Celtics might engage in to close their window of opportunity as contenders, and to start the rebuilding process once again. The club that won the 2008 NBA Championship went into their contest Tuesday night, as they took on the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena with a record of 15-17 having lost their last five games in a row before the break. Whether that trade talk inspired them on Tuesday night, is something that only the Celtics players know, however they started the second half of their campaign with a hard-fought victory as they outlasted their hosts 86-83 to end their five game skid.
The home team led 81-80 with 48 seconds left in the contest when Boston veteran guard Ray Allen slammed the rock through the hole with authority putting his team on to stay at 82-81. After Kyrie Irving knocked down a pair at the charity stripe to pull Cleveland within one point, Allen clinched the victory by knocking down two critical shots at the line with two seconds to play.
The Celtics starting shooting guard paced his club with 22 points in the win while Kevin Garnett would score 18 points in the game. Cavaliers rookie point guard Kyrie Irving, fresh off his MVP performance in the NBA Rising Stars Challenge knocked down a game high 24 points in the loss. Cleveland stayed in the game until the end in spite of shooting a mediocre 39.7% (31-78) from the floor for the night.
This game was a roller-coaster affair throughout the night as the two teams each went through periods of feast and famine throughout the evening. The Cavaliers left their offense inside their locker room when they took to the floor for the opening period and the visitors were more than happy to exploit the situation. Garnett hit an eight foot bunny with 18 seconds remaining and at the end of the quarter the Celtics held a 28-15 advantage.
Cleveland recovered their shooting touch during the final moments of the second, however Boston’s offense would get stuck in neutral for much of the period. Omri Casspi split a pair at the line with 26 seconds left in the quarter and as the Celtics went into their locker room at the half their lead was down to just five points at 43-38.
Slowly but surely the Cavaliers chipped away at their deficit during the third and with 6:16 remaining in the period Cleveland rookie forward Tristan Thompson slammed the ball through the cylinder giving his club the upper hand at 53-51. Ramon Sessions hit a pair at the line with 39 seconds to play and the home team ended the period holding the lead at 66-64.
For nearly the first five minutes of the final period, the Celtics would keep tying the score; but could not get over the hump to grab the advantage. Allen would rectify that situation with 7:16 remaining in the contest as he buried a 25 foot trey putting his team ahead 73-72. The two opponents kept exchanging the lead until Allen’s dunk put Boston out in front to stay late in the quarter.
Allen knocked down 22 points, 2 assists and 1 rebound while Garnett scored 18 points, 8 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal. Paul Pierce came up with 12 points, 6 assists, 2 rebounds and 2 steals while Brandon Bass returned to action after being on the shelf due to injury; with 12 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 1 block. Rajon Rondo did not score a point but he did dish off 11 assists, 3 rebounds and had 1 assist.
Irving scored 24 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and a steal while Thompson racked up a double-double with 13 points, 10 rebounds and 2 blocks. Sessions also had 13 points, 2 rebounds, 2 steals and 1 assist while Casspi had 10 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block and 1 steal. Boston now stands at 16-17 and will play host to the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday while Cleveland now has a record of 13-19 and will travel to New York to take on the Knicks on Tuesday.