Caris LeVert pulled up from three one more time, got knocked to the ground by Malcolm Brodgon, hit a free throw and sent the fans to the exits near the end of overtime with a performance reminiscent of his 2020 beatdown he laid on the Celtics playing for Brooklyn.
This time, it came wearing a Cavaliers uniform in tandem with Donovan Mitchell, the pair pouring in 82 combined points on 27-for-47 shooting in a 132-123 overtime win over the Celtics.
“Really just recommit to our defensive identity,” Mazzulla stressed pre-game. “Whether we’re switching or not, just making sure we’re physical. Making sure we’re executing defensively.”
It didn’t happen.
Adding some size on the floor helped Boston stabilize in the first half, Mazzulla at one point featuring Brown and Tatum at the guard spots next to Vonleh, Kornet and Sam Hauser. Griffin entered for White midway through the first quarter after Mobley and Allen scored attacking him, Brown and Tatum around the post. He picked up three quick fouls and sat, giving sparsely-utilized Kornet an opportunity next to Horford.
Allen quickly met the big man with a slam on his head, but his presence in the drop defense lured Mitchell and the Cavaliers into mid-range jumpers, Boston entering the night allowing the most attempts from that area of any team (19.0).
Brogdon entered hitting a jump shot and drawing a pair of free throws to push an eight-point turnaround. He bobbled a loose ball he dislodged from Mobley’s hands, caught it around half court and dumped to Hauser behind him for two. Then, Vonleh relieved Kornet and immediately flushed a put-back finish, stopped Cedi Osman in the post and sent Hauser on the run for a go-ahead buzzer beating three entering the second quarter.
The bench unit maintained a small lead on a 10-8 stretch between quarters, Tatum scoring twice on Mobley and Brown getting downhill for a pair of buckets to maintain it at 50-46. The starters returned briefly with four minutes remaining, Tatum racing into the offensive zone after stealing LeVert’s pass, kicking to Brown, and relocating to the corner to catch a shot fake pass from Brown for a three. White and Brogdon added catch-and-shoot threes on drive-and-kick sequences started by Brown and Tatum, and the Celtics entered halftime scoring, 75-60.
Mitchell owned the third, scoring six points, including a head-on slam over Kornet, who started the third in place of White. His two assists in those early minutes, including a drive-and-kick to Kevin Love for three, cut Boston’s lead to six points. Then, he and Osman traded threes to tie the game at 90. Mitchell added another on a drive-and-kick by LeVert, but Smart matched him on the opposite end, then fired off an outlet pass with four seconds left to White, who had darted up the floor for a last-second layup.
Mazzulla won another challenge, a three shot foul call on Kornet guarding Love that turned into a jump ball win and layup for White to start the fourth. White took a charge one play later, and Brown attacked Mobley downhill to reestablish a 106-99 lead. Mitchell wouldn’t let it last long, burying a pull-up three and crushing a two-handed slam beating Boston’s defense up the floor to tie the game at 106.
Important open misses at the rim and from three by White capped a four trip drought for the Celtics, but drew pair of free throws before Brogdon relieved him. The Celtics led by four, then LeVert grabbed a pair of offensive rebounds to set up Mitchell for a layup and himself for a last-minute go ahead three. Mitchell tried to ice the game with a pull-up over Horford, but his shot fell short and Brogdon balanced along the baseline and corralled the ball to Brown, who ran for a lefty layup and the lead.
Allen split a pair of free throws, giving Tatum a leaning jumper at the buzzer for the win over Dean Wade that launched over the rim. Overtime awaited, with the Celtics going down five, tying the game on a three and breakout slam over Mitchell by Brown, but he missed the go-ahead free throw.
LeVert answered with four straight points, and Brown fumbled a long pass by Smart after a pair of stops on Cleveland’s stars that could’ve set up a layup and one point game. Instead, Tatum threw a pass to LeVert on the next possession, who buried Boston with free throws and his dagger three.
The Celtics will continue their home stand on Sunday at 6 p.m. against the Wizards.