With Kyrie Irving (flu-like symptoms) and Al Horford (rest) on the shelf, the Boston Celtics might have been challenged. Fortunately, they were playing the Cleveland Cavaliers and rolled to a 123-103 victory. The win extended the Celtics streak to five games and pushed them a season-best 12 games over .500 at 30-18.
Boston got out to a bit of a slow start as a team, as Cleveland led 30-27 after the first quarter. The Celtics defense was flat to start, as the Cavaliers shot 13-of-23 to open the game. But Terry Rozier, who started in place of Irving, scored 16 points on 6-of-6 from the floor to keep Boston close.
The Celtics pulled away in the second quarter, as Rozier hit both of his attempts to finish the first half with 22 of his 26 points for the game. The Boston bench also gave the team a lift, as Jaylen Brown and Gordon Hayward came in to score 23 and 18 points respectively. Brad Wanamaker gave Brad Stevens some good minutes as well.
Jayson Tatum added 17 points for Boston, along with three steals and some good individual defense.
Cleveland was led by a strong effort from former Boston draftee Ante Zizic as he scored 19 points. A host of Cavs wings chipped in scoring-wise, as Cedi Osman added 25, Jordan Clarkson scored 14 and Alec Burks finished with 10 points of his own. Rookie point guard Collin Sexton came on late to finish with 16 points.
The turning point came when Boston picked up their defensive effort in the second quarter, as they picked up their ball pressure and overall intensity on that end of the floor.
Overall, it was a business-like victory for the shorthanded Celtics. Irving and Horford, along with the rest of their teammates will now have two days off before Boston welcomes in the defending champion Golden State Warriors on Saturday night in the ABC showcase game of the week.