BOSTON – When it comes to winning in the playoffs, late-game execution is an essential component to success.
We’ve seen the Celtics win in that fashion often this season, but rarely against a team as good as the Cleveland Cavaliers.
But there were the Celtics, feisty as ever when the game mattered most, doing all the little things at both ends of the floor to escape with a 103-99 victory Wednesday over the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
- Highlights: Boston Celtics 103, Cleveland Cavaliers 99
- LeBron James on running into Bill Belichick: 'I'm not taking no legend out'
- Bradley makes most of his time vs. Cavs, plays key role in closing minutes
- Celtics close out the game strong, pull out a 103-99 win over Cavs
It was Boston’s first win of the season over the Cavs, who now lead the head-to-head season series two games to one with their final matchup being April 5 at the TD Garden.
The victory also brings the Celtics (39-22) within three games of the East-leading Cavs.
Following the game, there was no question about the game having a postseason-like feel about it.
“It definitely felt like a playoff game,” said Cavs coach Tyronn Lue. “The atmosphere is great. Whenever you play in Boston the atmosphere is good. Both sides competed and it was a really good game.”
Boston’s Amir Johnson echoed similar sentiments.
“The crowd was really into this one, just like it was a playoff game,” he told CSNNE.com. “We needed them tonight because the Cavs, they’re a really good team.”
And while the Cavs (41-18) would have loved to have come away with the victory, they seemed to appreciate the quality of play by both teams.
“It was fun,” said Kyrie Irving. “Obviously, you want to come and win. It feels like a playoff atmosphere. Two great teams going at it; it’s what you want to be a part of.”
Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Wednesday night’s game.
Isaiah Thomas: The confidence that Thomas plays with is undeniable, and is only growing with each passing victory. He led all scorers with 31 points on 10-for-20 shooting to go with five assists.
LeBron James: He was filling the stat sheet in all categories for the Cavs, tallying a triple-double of 28 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists.
Kyrie Irving: Plagued by early foul trouble, Irving still put together a strong game for Cleveland. He finished with 21 points on 10-for-19 shooting.
Avery Bradley: Nobody in this game got more out of their minutes played than Bradley. He had 11 points on 4-for-11 shooting, but even more important was his defense down the stretch against Irving.
Jae Crowder: He finished with a double-double of 17 points and 10 rebounds for Boston. Within that impressive stat line was a go-ahead 3-pointer with about two minutes to play which was one of the many big shots made by the Celtics down the stretch.
Al Horford: He missed some shots that he should have made, but give Horford credit. He has consistently found ways to make winning plays when it matters most. He finished just short of a triple-double, scoring nine points to go along with 10 rebounds and 10 assists.
Kyle Korver: He hit a big 3-pointer in the fourth quarter; I’ll give him that. But besides that shot, Korver brought little to the game tonight for the Cavs. He finished with four points, missing six of his seven shot attempts.