Ford Keys to the Game: Cavaliers 88, Celtics 87

Ford Keys to the Game

Cavaliers 88, Celtics 87

Game Highlights

Photo of the Game

Paul Pierce

Paul Pierce takes a knee right in front of the Cavaliers' bench during Sunday night's game.
Steve Babineau/NBAE/Getty

Key Moment

Some will look to the missed layup by Ray Allen with 2:53 remaining in tonight’s game and say it changed the course of the night. Many others will point to Kyrie Irving’s I’m-a-big-boy-now, game-winning layup as the Key Moment. Tonight’s most important sequence, however, flies under the radar in the box score and the play-by-play.

The Celtics led by five points with 2:15 remaining after Anderson Varejao put home a layup for Cleveland to make the score 87-82. Boston went right where they should have gone for a key basket on the next possession, and was to Paul Pierce, who had shot 8-of-11 from the field at that point in the game.

Pierce was isolated at the top of the key and made his patented pump fake move to draw contact just outside of the free-throw line. He absorbed the bump by his defender and tossed up a jumper with the intention of starting off a conventional three-point play. However, nothing on this play went as planned.

Not only did Pierce’s shot miss by about a foot, the referees also forgot to blow their whistles to send the captain to the charity stripe for two freebies. The contact between Pierce and his defender was unavoidable, leaving Boston’s bench in a state of disbelief when the whistles weren’t blown.

Meanwhile, the Cavaliers were less concerned with the no-cal than they were with putting home a big bucket at the other end. They wound up getting the critical score from Varejao, who had just grabbed the rebound from Pierce’s miss, off of a driving layup with 1:38 left in the game.

That’s a four-point swing in the matter of 15 seconds. Instead of Pierce putting the Celtics ahead by as many as seven points with less than two minutes on the clock, this sequence resulted in a one-possession game.

Yes, Boston had opportunities to win the game from that point on, but that sequence of play gave the Cavaliers life and played an enormous role in them stealing a win at TD Garden and ending the Celtics’ four-game win streak.

Key Box Score Line

A jammed left ankle and a newborn child isn’t enough to stop Ray Allen from returning to the lineup and absolutely lighting up the opposing team. Allen was in action tonight for the first time in a week and wound up leading the Celtics with 22 points.

Shooting and scoring certainly weren't issues for Allen tonight, as he returned with no visible rust and drilled nine of his 14 field goal attempts. That total included a 4-for-6 performance from downtown. His nine made shots were a team high and trailed only Kyrie Irving, who scored a game-high 23 points, for the game high. Allen also pitched in three rebounds and three assists in his first game back.

He told us before the game that his ankle is better and that, luckily, his wife had been handling the newborn responsibilities.

“With this job – I hate to be stingy – but I need sleep,” he said.

It sure looked tonight as if he’s been sleeping just fine, and that the ankle injury is long gone.

Box Score Nuggets

  • Four of Boston's starters attempted between 10 and 14 shots and made between 5 and 9 of them.
  • Ray Allen led the Celtics with 22 points.
  • Boston grabbed only 33 rebounds in the game.
  • Kyrie Irving recorded game highs of 23 points and six assists.
  • Alonzo Gee snagged a game-high four steals off of the bench for Cleveland.
  • Four of Boston's starters scored between 12 and 22 points.
  • Kevin Garnett led Boston with seven rebounds and also scored 14 points.
  • Paul Pierce committed a game-high seven turnovers.
  • Cleveland scored a whopping 54 points in the paint.
  • E'Twaun Moore, Sasha Pavlovic and Chris Wilcox each scored four points apiece off the bench for Boston.
  • Gee led all reserves with 14 points for Cleveland.
  • The Cavaliers totaled just 12 assists in the game.
  • Each team scored 17 points off of turnovers.
  • Boston was outscored 15-2 in fast break points.
  • The Celtics (52.2 percent) nearly outshot the Cavs (43.0 percent) by 10 percent, but still lost the game.
  • Anderson Varejao grabbed a game-high nine rebounds to go along with 18 points.
  • Both teams shot 19-for-38 in the first half.
  • There were 17 ties and 20 lead changes in the game.

Quote of the Night

Cleveland head coach Byron Scott: "I guess the last day and half of me yelling and screaming about playing hard every night, I guess they got tired of hearing it. They came out and did a great job."