The Cavaliers came into tonight’s game against the Celtics with a 10-game losing streak. They hadn’t had a lead entering the fourth quarter in 4 games, and were coming off an 18-point loss at the hands of the Brooklyn Nets. That losing streak, however, is now over, as the Cavaliers handled business in the second half for the first time in what seems like forever, finishing with a 97-91 win over the banged up Celtics. Boston was playing without Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, but that doesn’t matter. The Celtics haven’t played well as of late, winning only three of their last 10. That doesn’t matter. The Cavaliers picked up a win in a game that they should have won. And that is a good thing.
This one was a very competitive game throughout, as the Cavaliers kept pace with the Celtics throughout a tough first half, as both teams missed every three they took, and struggled to generate offense outside of Shavlik Randolph, who was 5-6 for 13 points in the first half for Boston, while the Cavaliers were powered by 9 points and 5 rebounds from Tristan Thompson. Kyrie Irving struggled to score in the first half, getting hounded by Avery Bradley, but the Cavs found a way to stay competitive, and the game remained tied at 52 at the half.
Normally, this is where the Cavs would wilt in the third quarter and end up losing by double-digits. This is what’s happened many a time over the losing streak. The Hawks game. The Hornets game. The first Celtics game. Both 76ers games. However, the Cavs battled back after an early Celtics run, and claimed a six-point lead after three quarters. From there, it was all gravy for the Cavs, as Tristan Thompson and Alonzo Gee consistently dominated through both scoring and rebounding, and the Cavs held off the Celtics to clinch the victory. Thompson was the star of the night, remaining the top offensive option for the Cavs throughout the game, finishing with 29 points, and killing the Celtics on the boards, as he would finish with 17 rebounds, nearly double the Celtics’ best individual effort (Jeff Green, who had 9 in addition to 23 points and 4 assists as the Celtics top option). Gee would finish with 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Cavs, most of which came in that third quarter. Irving, despite a poor shooting night, still found a way to get involved, feeding Thompson and Gee consistently and playing some solid defense of his own, as he finished with 11 points, 5 rebounds, and 8 assists.
One thing that definitely made a difference tonight was Byron Scott’s substitution patterns, which changed significantly from what has been common over the losing streak. While we have been fed a consistent diet of Luke Walton, Marreese Speights, and C.J. Miles as the top options off the bench, tonight, Scott decided to play the younger guys, and had some positive results. Speights and Walton played a combined 5 minutes, as Walton injured his ankle early on, and Scott thus relied on Kevin Jones, who played 22 minutes and finished with 2 points and 8 rebounds, while playing some nice defense on Randolph and Chris Wilcox down low. Shaun Livingston played his usual amount, but more Wayne Ellington and less C.J. Miles than we’re used to meant positive results for the Cavs defense, as the Cavs guards held the Celtics guards to a combined 10-41 from the field, with Avery Bradley’s 3-10, 10 point performance being the best offensive showing from the backcourt for Boston. Even if injuries forced it, in a week where Byron Scott has received endless heat from critics for his roster rotation and team defense, Scott adjusted on the fly with beautiful results, particularly on the defensive end.
This was an excellent game for the Cavaliers, even if it came against a banged-up Celtics team. A road win against a playoff-team is a great statement to end a losing streak on, and getting a truly dominating performance from Thompson is comforting. With Orlando coming to the Q on Sunday, the Cavs have a chance for back-to-back wins, and even though the Cavs are tanking, and wins could be seen as a negative, for tonight, a win is very, very welcome.