BOSTON – For most of this season, the best teams in the East have gotten the better of the Boston Celtics.
They have had their share of good but not good enough performances against teams like the Cleveland Cavaliers, but have consistently failed to seal the victory.
That all changed on Wednesday night as the Celtics pulled out a 103-99 win over the Cavs.
- Highlights: Boston Celtics 103, Cleveland Cavaliers 99
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Isaiah Thomas led all scorers with 31 points while LeBron James had a triple-double of 28 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists for the Cavaliers.
Boston (39-22) snapped a three-game losing skid to the Cavs in addition to handing Cleveland (41-18) its first loss to a team from the Atlantic Division this season.
A pair of free throws by Thomas put the Celtics ahead 101-99 with 28.1 seconds to play.
Newly acquired Cavs guard Deron Williams had a wide open shot from the corner that rimmed in and out before being rebounded by the Jae Crowder with four seconds to play.
Crowder, who had a double-double of 17 points and 10 rebounds, made both free throws after being fouled to seal the victory in what was a wild finish that was anyone’s for the taking.
Thomas began the fourth quarter on the bench, but entered play with 10:02 remaining and the score tied at 76.
Three-pointers by James and Richard Jefferson were bookends to a 3-ball from Boston’s Jaylen Brown, leaving the score 82-79 in Cleveland’s favor with more than eight minutes of action still left in the game.
Avery Bradley, who remains on a minutes restriction, checked back into the game with 3:28 to play and Boston trailing 92-90.
His task was clear: limit Kyrie Irving who had 24 points at the time on 9-for-15 shooting. Irving finished with 28 points on 10-for-19 shooting.
Boston being on the cusp of victory was a far cry from how the game played out through the first three quarters, with the Celtics doing what they’ve done time and time against teams like the Cavs which is play well but not well enough to get the victory.
The Celtics spent most of the first half playing catch-up, an all-too familiar position Cleveland tends to put most of their opponents in.
But the Celtics fought their way back into the game, and tied it at 41-all following an Isaiah Thomas 3-pointer.
The two went back and forth the rest of the half which ended with Cleveland clinging to a slim 50-49 lead.
Boston continued to stay within arm’s reach of the Cavs, leading by as many as two points (59-57) following a 3-pointer by Al Horford.
Both teams put on the kind of performance you would expect from the top two teams in the East, with the Celtics going into the fourth clinging to a slim 74-71 lead.