The Boston Celtics nearly blew all of a 22-point lead, but they held on to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers, 103-100, on Saturday afternoon, withstanding 32 points from Kyrie Irving.
Stevens: "we've made the last couple weeks an adventure." Suggested a hashtag for a Celtics marketing campaign #EveryGameIsAnAdventure— Jay King (@ByJayKing) December 28, 2013
Six Celtics players scored in double figures with Jeff Green and Jordan Crawford leading the way with 19 points apiece.
As a team, Boston shot 45.8 percent from the floor and scored 59 points in the first half.
The Cavaliers slowly worked their way back into the game, largely on the shoulders of Irving.
Still, it wasn't enough for Cleveland, as the Cavs' disappointing season continued with their fourth straight loss.
We deserve so much better than this. All of us. Indians, Browns and Cavs fans. Keep fighting Cleveland. You can't kill what's already dead.— Eric Knappenberger (@CavsWITNESS) December 28, 2013
The C's snapped their own three-game losing skid.
Key Player Grades
Kyrie Irving, Point Guard
Irving was sensational on the offensive end of the floor in this one, racking up 32 points on 13-of-22 shooting and almost single-handedly getting the Cavaliers back into the game.
He hit threes, he worked around screens to get to the basket and he hit several mid-range jumpers to inch his team ever so close to stealing a win at TD Garden.
Unfortunately for Irving, his defense left much to be desired as he allowed the Celtics guards far too much room to operate.
As athletic as he is, he still has problems on that end of the floor.
Tristan Thompson, Power Forward
Tristan Thompson had a solid first half, posting seven points and four rebounds and making a couple of difficult shots with both hands.
He was invisible in the final two quarters, though, failing to score a point.
I guess Mike Brown didn't like the feel of the team with Thompson on the floor, because he didn't even get off of the bench in the fourth quarter.
Thompson finished with seven points and seven rebounds in 26 minutes. He shot 3-of-5.
Anderson Varejao, Center
This was a pretty quiet outing for Anderson Varejao.
The Brazilian big man only took two shots, making one of them. He scored six points and grabbed eight rebounds in 29 minutes and did not do a very good job of protecting the rim.
Varejao did make all four of his free throws, so I guess that's something.
Overall, though, Varejao's impact was rather limited.
C.J. Miles, Shooting Guard
C.J. Miles has certainly seen better days.
Apparently, the air ball that Miles shot in the first quarter was a bad omen, as Miles did not make a single field goal or score a single point the rest of the way.
Miles went 0-for-5 from the floor and struggled defensively. As a result, Mike Brown only played him 11 minutes.
Earl Clark, Small Forward
Earl Clark got off to a good start in this one, scoring eight points in the first quarter and burying three triples in the first half.
However, he was quiet the rest of the way, not registering a single point over the final 24 minutes after scoring 12 in the first two quarters.
Clark did a nice job spreading the floor early on, going 3-of-5 from deep.
Still, he posted a minus-12.
Dion Waiters, Sixth Man
Dion Waiters was all over the place in this game.
The mercurial sixth man shot 6-of-16 from the floor, taking some very poor shots and, at the same time, hitting some tough ones to help keep Cleveland in the contest.
Waiters missed three free throws, though, and that helped make a difference in the Cavs' three-point loss.
The second-year guard scored 17 points, but he didn't do it all that efficiently.
How about Anthony Bennett actually doing something?
The embattled No. 1 overall pick actually played 19 big minutes, registering five points and five rebounds.
While Bennett is still obviously rough around the edges, he showed flashes of why the Cavs made him their first selection back in June.
Jarrett Jack also did his thing off the pine, scoring 14 points and nailing a couple of big triples to bring the Cavaliers to within four late in the game. He went 5-of-8 and also dished out four assists in 31 minutes.
Tyler Zeller had a fine afternoon, as well, grabbing 10 rebounds in 22 minutes.
Productive outing for the Cleveland reserves.
Jared Sullinger, Center
Jared Sullinger was solid in the first half, particularly in the second quarter where he did a great job of running down the middle of the floor and positioning himself in the paint for easy layups.
The second half, however, was a different story.
Sullinger went 0-for-7 over the final 24 minutes and failed to assert himself inside, spending a bit too much time on the perimeter.
Sullinger's final numbers? Eight points and three rebounds off 4-of-14 shooting. Not what we're used to seeing from the big man who has blossomed so magnificently this season.
Jeff Green, Small Forward
Jeff Green was absolutely huge in terms of setting the tone early on, scoring 12 points in the first period.
Jeff Green did not score more than 13 points in any of the past five games. He had 12 in the first quarter.— Jay King (@ByJayKing) December 28, 2013
He was relatively quiet afterward, though, tallying only seven points over the final three quarters.
Still, his imprint on the contest was clearly felt as Green finished with 19 points and eight boards. He also did a great job of drawing contact, getting to the free-throw line seven times and hitting each of his foul shots.
The Celtics also deserve a bit of blame for Green's subdued offensive performance in the second half, as they did not take advantage of the many mismatches that were presented to them pertaining to Green (he had guards defending him quite a bit, but Boston did not get the ball to him in the post).
Green shot 5-of-12.
Avery Bradley, Shooting Guard
Avery Bradley was a monster in this one, particularly on the offensive glass late.
Bradley had two huge putbacks in the fourth quarter, including a vicious slam that played a pivotal role in the Celtics holding on for the victory.
Bradley was very impressive for the rest of the contest, too.
The young guard tallied 18 points off 8-of-16 shooting and pulled down eight rebounds in total, three of them on the offensive end. He also handed out three dimes and added two steals.
Effective all-around effort for the defensive wiz.
Brandon Bass, Power Forward
Brandon Bass made some enormous plays down the stretch.
He grabbed a couple of big offensive boards late, including one which resulted in two free throws to put the Celtics up six with under two minutes to go.
Then Bass made the play of the game, staying with Dion Waiters and blocking his layup attempt that would have tied the game with eight seconds remaining.
Stevens on Bass' D, "Sometimes you have a good matchup and it clicks for the rest of your career." #Celtics— Jared Weiss (@CLNS_JaredWeiss) December 28, 2013
Bass was a force all over the floor, ending up with 15 points, six boards, four assists and two swats. The big man also shot an efficient 5-of-8 from the field and even hit a three-pointer.
Gotta love the effort from Bass on Saturday afternoon.
Jordan Crawford, Point Guard
Jordan Crawford was a mixed bag in Boston's win over Cleveland.
His stats look nice. 19 points off 7-of-11 shooting (3-of-5 from deep), five rebounds and five assists.
However, Crawford made some awful decisions late, including trying to make a fancy pass to Bradley in the corner when all he needed to do was make a simple feed which would have resulted in an open Bradley three. Instead, he turned the ball over, giving the Cavaliers some momentum.
That was Jordan Crawford at an all-time worst, maybe.— Jay King (@ByJayKing) December 28, 2013
Also, when Crawford was assigned to Irving, he struggled as he just does not have the lateral quickness to stay with the Cleveland guard.
Finally, the Celtics floor general waited far too long to make his move numerous times as the game wound down, resulting in Boston scrambling to get off a shot before the shot clock expired.
All of that said, Crawford was far from poor in this one, and he did have 10 big points in the third quarter.
Kris Humphries, Sixth Man
It's funny how the once maligned Kris Humphries has carved out a niche in Boston's rotation.
Humphries was crucial off the bench on Saturday afternoon, chipping in 10 big points and three rebounds in 17 minutes. He displayed great hands, picking up a couple of loose balls in a crowd that prevented Cleveland from getting extra possessions.
Humphries shot 4-of-7 from the floor and made two big free throws in the fourth quarter.
Courtney Lee provided a huge lift off the pine for the Celtics, scoring 10 of his 11 points in the second quarter and finding some range from deep, hitting a couple of treys during that period.
Kelly Olynyk made some nice hustle plays and grabbed seven boards in just 14 minutes, but he turned the ball over three times and looked somewhat lost whenever he touched the ball offensively.
Gerald Wallace gave the C's nine solid minutes, and Phil Pressey played some solid defense in his 12 minutes.
Overall, decent effort from Boston's reserves.
What's Next for the Cavaliers?
It doesn't get any easier, that's for sure.
The Cavaliers' next two games are at Golden State and then at home to play the Pacers, two games that look like sure losses right now.
Then, after playing the Orlando Magic, Cleveland is at Brooklyn and then gets Indiana again.
Their four games after that are all against teams below .500, so at least there is some light at the end of the tunnel.
What's Next for the Celtics?
Boston gets games against the Atlanta Hawks, Chicago Bulls and New Orleans Pelicans before embarking on a West Coast gauntlet against the likes of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State Warriors and Portland Trail Blazers. Yes, those are all on the road.
This is a huge test for the C's. If they can come out of these next eight games alive, then they are for real. If not, then, well, at least they play in the Atlantic Division.