The Boston Celtics closed their homestand with a 3-2 record by beating the Cleveland Cavaliers, 111-101, behind 34 points from Jaylen Brown. Jayson Tatum added 19. The Celtics are once again a .500 team at 16-16 while the Cavs had a six-game winning streak broken.
Rob Williams, returning from his one-game absence, was everywhere with 21 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks. Darius Garland led the Cavs with 28 points.
Both teams were shorthanded due to Covid-19 protocols. Like the Sixers game, the Celtics were without seven “health and safety” players, including Al Horford, Josh Richardson and Grant Williams. The Cavs were also missing a plethora of players, including Jarrett Allen, Isaac Okoro, and impressive rookie Evan Mobley. Interestingly, the Cavs gave Tacko Fall his first NBA start in his first time at TD Garden as a visiting player.
This was the Cavs’ only visit to the Garden this season. In November, the teams had split a two-games-in-three-days meeting in Cleveland.
Coincidentally on “2000s Night” at the Garden, Joe Johnson made his return to the Celtics as a Covid replacement on a 10-day contract. Johnson was picked by Boston no. 10 in the 2001 draft, but traded away in his rookie year. He went on to score more than 20,000 points before retiring in 2018. He played the last 2 minutes tonight and hit his only shot. The crowd was happy.
As he tends to do, Jaylen started out hot, scoring 16 first-quarter points on 6-of-7 shooting. No one else on either team had more than 5 points in the period, although one of them was Aaron Nesmith, who drilled a three and a mid-range. The Cs led 31-26 at the buzzer.
The Cavs opened the second by committing 3 quick turnovers, contributing to Boston scoring the first 10 points of the quarter. Just as quickly, Cleveland responded with 9 straight, cutting the lead to 41-35.
Then Jayson came alive. After missing his first 6 shots, Tatum scored 9 of Boston’s next 11 points. When a hustling tip-out by Romeo Langford (11 points, 9 rebounds) led to a second-chance hoop for Jaylen, the Boston lead was back to 15.
And did you expect this from Enes Freedom?
The 15-point lead held at intermission, 63-48. Jaylen led with 20 points, followed by Jayson’s 11. The Cs shot 48% in the half and scored 11 points off 10 Cleveland turnovers. Boston’s defense held the Cavs to 36% shooting (17-of-47) and 13% (2-of-15) from the arc. Garland (13 points in the half, 10 of them in the second quarter) was the only Cav in double figures.
Jaylen and Rob Williams combined to open the third with Boston’s first 9 points, and the lead swelled to 72-50. Cleveland tried to answer, but even a flurry where they had second- and third-chance 3-point tries came up empty. When Garland buried a deep triple, Jaylen answered in kind on the Celtics’ next trip. 84-61, Celts.
Cleveland wouldn’t quit, as Kevin Love had 6 points and an assist to lead a 12-1 run, cutting the margin to 85-73 going to the fourth. The Cavs were still shooting just 38% for the game, but scored 8 points off 5 Celtics turnovers in the period.
In the fourth, the Celtics couldn’t land the knockout blow, but Cleveland never got closer than 10. Boston stayed in control thanks to plays like this.
The Celtics have two days off before their Christmas Day matchup with the Bucks in Milwaukee, Saturday at 2:30 p.m. EST, exclusively on ABC.
For more postgame coverage of tonight’s Celtics-Cavs battle, tune into the Garden Report Postgame Show LIVE on CLNS Media right after the game. Join A. Sherrod Blakely, Bobby Manning, Josue Pavon, Jimmy Toscano and host John Zannis for a full breakdown.