Cavs Can't Complete Comeback

December 19, 2012
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Tyler Zeller

Wrap-Up – For the shorthanded Cavaliers, it was a case of using up so much fuel making a comeback – and it was a big one – that they had nothing in the tank down the stretch. Cleveland cut a 20-point Celtics’ lead to a deuce, 82-80, early in the fourth quarter. But a scorching Paul Pierce – who finished with 40 points – heated back up in the closing minutes to help Boston pull away for the 103-91 win on Wednesday night at the TD Garden.

Playing without veterans Anderson Varejao (right knee contusion) and Boobie Gibson (right ankle sprain), the Cavaliers were led by Kyrie Irving, who netted 16 of his team-high 22 points after intermission. Rookie Tyler Zeller got the first start of his career and finished with 20 points and Tristan Thompson doubled-up with 11 points and a team-high 12 boards. Dion Waiters shook off some rust in his second game back and he and Alonzo Gee both finished with 11 points.

Turning Point – It was fitting that Pierce – who routinely kills the Cavs – provided the game’s turning point. The Cavaliers had cut Boston’s big lead to a bucket and were within striking distance with just over four minutes to play when Pierce went on a 6-1 run – extending an eight-point Celtics’ edge to 13 and ending the Wine and Gold’s hope of closing the comeback.

Game BallTyler Zeller – The rookie big man from North Carolina made the most of his first start in place of Varejao, battling a future Hall of Famer on the defensive end and netting a career-high 20 points on 9-for-15 shooting. Zeller grabbed just three boards, but tallied three assists and a steal. And aside from a rough second quarter, he did a nice job on Kevin Garnett in the loss.

By the Numbers9 … number of sets of back-to-back games the Cavaliers have already played this season.

QuotableTyler Zeller, on his first game back without the protective facemask …

“Incredible. The little touch shots and stuff. I shoot a lot of those around the rim out of the corner of my eye. It’s nice to be able to do that again and not try to whip my head around to find the rim.”

Up Next – The Cavaliers take on two Division opponents this weekend, trying to get off the Central Division schneid. They welcome the Pacers to The Q on Friday night and travel to Milwaukee on Saturday, where they’ll try to snap a nine-game losing streak to the Bucks.