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The Celtics found out what most teams traveling to Cleveland have so far this season: that the young Cavaliers are going to make them work for everything they get.
Trailing by a dozen – 113-101 – with just 4:25 to play, the feisty Cavs clawed their way back into the ballgame, cutting the Celtics lead to just three on Collin Sexton’s triple with 1:33 remaining.
But Gordon Hayward grabbed a huge offensive rebound off a Kemba Walker miss just over a minute later, putting back his 38th and 39th points of the ballgame to seal the deal and send the Wine & Gold to the 119-113 defeat, Cleveland’s third straight loss.
Hayward didn’t miss a two-point field goal attempt all night, going 17-of-20 from the floor to go with eight assists and seven boards. His lone offensive rebound was the aforementioned dagger.
Despite big showings from Hayward and Kemba Walker – who added 25 points on 6-of-8 shooting from deep – the Cavaliers stayed within striking distance all night. Cleveland led just once – 2-0 on Tristan Thompson’s short jumper to start the scoring – but never let the red-hot Celtics pull away, saving their final push for the fourth quarter’s closing moments.
Six Cavaliers tallied double-figures on Tuesday – led by Sexton’s 21-point effort, going 6-of-15 from the floor, including 2-of-3 from long-range.
Thompson notched his sixth double-double in seven outings – finishing with 19 points, 13 rebounds, four assists and a block. Kevin Love barely missed his sixth double-double of the year, adding 17 points, nine boards and a pair of rejections.
Cedi Osman and Jordan Clarkson tallied 12 points apiece – each struggling from the floor on 4-of-13 shooting.
Larry Nance was outstanding off the bench – drilling all three three-pointers he attempted, going 5-of-6 from the floor overall.
Larry Nance Jr. comes up with a big three-pointer early in the game to keep the Cavs within striking distance on Tuesday night. He went 3-3 from beyond the line when the dust cleared.
Cleveland definitely saved its best for last on Tuesday night.
After Walker put the Celtics up 12 with under four-and-a-half to play, Kevin Love connected on his second straight bucket, shooting over the smaller Marcus Smart. After a Walker miss, Cedi Osman got into the act, drilling a three-pointer with 3:38 to play to get the Cavs to within seven.
Tristan Thompson scored on two straight possessions to get the Wine & Gold to within three, 113-110, and even with Walker answering Cleveland’s run with a triple to put the C’s up six, Collin Sexton answered right back with a bomb of his own.
But Hayward’s big offensive rebound and a final free throw from Walker put the affair on ice, sealing the Celtics’ fourth straight victory.
16.9, 11.6, .536 … Tristan Thompson’s scoring and rebounding averages – plus shooting percentage from the floor – through the first seven games of the season.
Thompson has doubled-up in six games, topped the 20-point plateau twice and has handed out at least four assists in three of his last four outings.
Coach John Beilein, on his squad’s ball-movement and court awareness …
"The thing I want our guys to live by is just make the next right play, that’s it, whatever it is and sometimes we are looking for something better and it’s not going to get there."
Enjoy the best broadcast calls of the night from Cavaliers Radio Network's Tim Alcorn and 87.7 La Mega's Rafa Hernandez-Brito.
The Cavaliers head out for their longest road trip of the young season – a three-gamer that begins with a meeting against Bradley Beal and the Wizards on Friday night.
From there, the Wine & Gold make their first visit to Madison Square Garden on Sunday evening before wrapping up against Joel Embiid and the Sixers on Tuesday night in Philly.