Keys to the Game: Celtics 103, Cavaliers 99
Box Score Nuggets
Quote of the Night
Goodness gracious. Is it possible to choose one Key Moment from Wednesday night?
The Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers threw haymaker after haymaker at each other during the fourth quarter of this heavyweight battle. Boston just happened to throw the knockout punch.
The knockout came from, of all places, the free-throw line. Isaiah Thomas beat his defender, newly-acquired Deron Williams, off the dribble and took the ball into the paint with Williams trailing him from behind. Thomas, who has been as savvy a scorer as the league has seen this season, played the following seconds perfectly. He slowed down just inside the paint, waited for Williams to run into him from behind, then fired up a shot at the basket. The shot rattled out, but Thomas had earned exactly what he wanted: two free throws.
Thomas had struggled from the free-throw line throughout the game, making only six of his first 10 attempts, but he drilled both of these attempts with 28.1 seconds left in the game. Those freebies pushed Boston ahead 101-99.
We now know in hindsight that those points stood as the winning points in the game, but during the action, the Celtics still needed a stop. Who did Boston rely on? Its All-Defensive First Team performer: Avery Bradley.
Bradley, playing in just his second game since returning from a lengthy Achilles injury, defended Kyrie Irving on Cleveland’s final possession. An old saying best describes his defense on the possession: Bradley was on Irving like white on rice.
Bradley shadowed Cleveland’s All-Star point guard step for step as Irving attempted to get into the paint for a bucket. Bradley prevented Irving from doing so and instead forced a highly-contested jumper from about 13 feet out. The attempt had no shot at falling through the basket.
Cleveland grabbed the offensive rebound, but Williams came up empty on a 3-pointer from the left corner after LeBron James hit him with a beautiful pass.
Boston grabbed the ensuing rebound, and Jae Crowder closed out the game’s scoring with two more connections from the free-throw line with 4.2 seconds left on the clock to give the C’s a 103-99 victory.
All of that, and that was only the final 28.1 seconds of the contest. This, folks, was a heck of a game.
Al Horford won’t gain a ton of praise elsewhere for his performance Wednesday night, but he’s going to get plenty right here. Horford was outstanding against the Cavaliers.
Following the game, Brad Stevens praised LeBron James for “making the right play” throughout his career and again during clutch time tonight. Horford made the right play over and over tonight as well, hence his minimal six field goal attempts.
Instead of firing up shot after shot, Horford assisted on shot after shot. He tied James for the game high in assists with 10, all while committing only two turnovers.
Horford also tied Jae Crowder for the team high in rebounds with 10 against Cleveland. He fell just one point shy of notching Boston’s first triple-double of the season, as he logged nine points on the night.
The big man also contributed one blocked shot during his 32-plus minutes of action. Boston outscored Cleveland by 11 points while he was on the floor.
Box Score Nuggets
- Cleveland outscored Boston in the paint (50-42), in second-chance points (17-6) and in fast break points (12-10) yet still lost.
- LeBron James recorded a triple-double with 28 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists.
- Isaiah Thomas led the Celtics with 31 points and also dished out five assists.
- Al Horford nearly notched a triple-double with 10 rebounds, 10 assists and nine points.
- The contest featured 24 lead changes and 19 ties.
- Horford and Jae Crowder tied for Boston's team high in rebounds with 10 apiece.
- The C's made just one fewer shot than Cleveland (46 to 47) despite attempting 13 fewer (78 to 91).
- Marcus Smart came off the bench to tally nine points, eight assists, two rebounds, a steal and two critical charges drawn.
- Derrick Williams led all reserves with 13 points.
- The Celtics shot 41.9 percent (13-for-31) from long range.
- Neither team committed more than 12 turnovers.
- Jae Crowder logged a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
- Kyrie Irving scored 28 points for Cleveland.
- Boston scored 11 points off of Cleveland's 11 turnovers.
Quote of the Night
I just knew once I got the opportunity to go back out there I was going to play as hard as I can and make sure I was focused.
Avery Bradley on sitting out 15 straight minutes before coming back for the stretch run and providing critical defense.