Ray Allen scored a team-leading 22 points to help the Boston Celtics squeak by the Cleveland Cavaliers, 86-83, in their first game back from the All-Star break on Tuesday evening at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, OH.
Despite coughing the ball up 17 times, the Celtics overcame themselves. Boston (16-17) made 33-of-74 field goals (44.6 percent) and had a 27-18 advantage in assists in the win, which snapped their five-game losing streak.
Kevin Garnett chipped in with 18 points and eight rebounds and Paul Pierce and Brandon Bass, who was making his return from a knee injury, finished with 12 points. Bass was 6-of-12 from the field and had seven rebounds. Chris Wilcox made his impact off the bench, amassing five points and 11 rebounds. Mickael Pietrus added nine points.
Kyrie Irving was dominant in the second half for Cleveland (13-19) and finished with a game-high 24 points and three assists as the Cavs shot 39.7 percent. Ramon Sessions and Tristan Thompson scored 13 apiece and Omri Casspi scored 10.
Cleveland opened up with four straight points, but Garnett fueled a 9-0 run with six points of his own to put Boston up by five. Later in the quarter, the C's went on an 11-0 run and led by 13 points after one. Boston had its lead up to as many as 16 points in the opening half, but the Cavs closed the gap by outscoring them 23-25 in the second quarter to climb back.
Another strong quarter put Cleveland in front 66-64 after the third quarter, in which Cleveland again outscored Boston, 28-21. Ever persistent, the Cavs kept themselves in the game thanks to Irving's dominant fourth quarter. Cleveland led 81-80 with 1:21 to go and Allen had a chance to erase the deficit with a corner three, but he was off target. A late turnover proved costly for Cleveland, as KG recorded a steal and chucked the ball to Allen for the go-ahead layup with a minute left.
A reversed turnover call gave the Cavs another chance with nearly 30 seconds to play, and Irving nearly recaptured the lead after splitting the Celtics defense, but he missed the layup. On the other end, Garnett missed a jumper but got his rebound and was fouled. KG made both free throws, putting the Cs up 84-81 with 3.9 ticks remaining.
After a timeout, Cleveland inbounded the ball to Irving, who was immediately fouled by Rondo. Irving made both free throws, again trimming the Celtics lead to one point, 84-83, with 3.5 seconds to play. Allen drained two free throws after another timeout, putting Boston up by two with only 2.4 seconds remaining. Needing a three, Anthony Parker missed a desperation jumper at the buzzer, sealing a Celtics victory.
Boston won't have long to rest, as it hosts the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night.