The third time was the charm for the Boston Celtics against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
After dropping their first two games vs. the Cavs this season, the C's finally got over the hump with a 117-113 win Wednesday night at TD Garden. They bounced back from Monday's loss to the New York Knicks -- in which they were ice-cold from 3-point range -- by shooting 50 percent (16-for-32) from deep.
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Jayson Tatum snapped out of his shooting slump and finished with 41 points. Al Horford came through with 23 points and Jaylen Brown returned to the lineup with 16.
Cavs star Donovan Mitchell dropped a game-high 44 points in the losing effort while Darius Garland chipped in 29.
The Celtics improve to 45-18 on the season and will look to carry their momentum into Friday's home game vs. the Brooklyn Nets. First, here are our takeaways from Wednesday's win over the Cavaliers.
Jayson Tatum gets back on track
Tatum hadn't looked like himself in the first three games out of the All-Star break. His shooting struggles were topped off with a lackluster 14-point performance in New York where he went 1-for-9 from beyond the arc.
He needed a bounce-back game on Wednesday, and he delivered.
Tatum overcame a slow start to the game to produce one of his best games of the past month. He woke up in the second quarter when he dropped 15 points on 5-of-6 shooting, then he added 18 more points in the third.
The four-time All-Star ended up with 41 points on 13-of-21 shooting, including 4-of-6 from 3-point range. He nearly had a triple-double as he added 11 rebounds and eight assists.
We could be in for a big month from Tatum as the 24-year-old has an affinity for March. He was virtually unstoppable this time last year and produced his best month of the season.
Marcus Smart lets his play do the talking
Bam Adebayo may have lit a fire under Smart with his Defensive Player of the Year comments. The Miami Heat big man said he deserved to be the 2022 DPOY over Smart due to his versatility as a defender. Smart responded in an interview with ESPN, then did his talking on the court.
Smart gave a friendly reminder of why he became the first point guard since Gary Payton in 1996 to earn Defensive Player of the Year honors. He was all over the floor defensively and played a huge role in the win with 14 points and three steals.
Celtics frontcourt makes the difference
Cleveland simply had no answer for Boston's starting frontcourt. On top of Tatum's big night, Al Horford and Robert Williams were outstanding.
In fact, Horford was almost perfect. The veteran big man hit his first six 3-pointers and started 8-for-8 from the floor. He finished with 23 points (8-10 FG) and 11 rebounds in 33 minutes. Over his last three games, he's 14-for-23 from long range.
As for Williams, this may have been his best all-around game of the season to this point. Time Lord, who didn't play in the Celtics' two losses to the Cavs, was active on both ends of the floor and was a difference-maker against Cleveland's frontcourt of Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley.
Williams notched 11 points (4-4 FG), 11 rebounds and two blocks in 31 minutes.
No sign of Grant Williams
Grant Williams did not play on Wednesday night, which is odd since he wasn't on the injury report. He entered the game averaging 27.3 minutes this season and the only other game he missed was the Oct. 28 loss to Cleveland when he was suspended.
So why was he sidelined?
"Matchups," C's coach Joe Mazzulla explained after the game.
He also may have wanted to give Williams a night off due to his recent struggles. It'll be interesting to see how the rotation looks over the final 20 games of the regular season, especially with Williams set to be a free agent this summer.