The Boston Celtics didn’t have to wait long for their chance at revenge. Just five days after dropping a disappointing overtime contest against the Cleveland Cavaliers at home, the Celtics took the court in Ohio with a chance to settle the score. But despite the change of venue, the result looked quite similar, as the Celtics once again dropped a tightly contested game in overtime against this Cavaliers roster.
Jaylen Brown led the Celtics for the evening with 30 points, while Jayson Tatum struggled through his first particularly poor scoring performance of the season, scoring 26 points on 8-of-21 shooting for the night (though he added six assists and four blocks). The Cavaliers were led by young All-Star Darius Garland, who led the way with 29 points and 12 assists, covering for a slow start from newcomer Donovan Mitchell (25 points, 11-of-27 shooting).
Garland made his return to the lineup for the Cavaliers this evening, and his presence was immediately impactful. The 22-year-old guard announced his presence early and often, racking up a game-high 14 points in the first quarter and keeping pace with the Celtics almost single-handedly. He cashed in on a trio of three-pointers and went 3-of-3 from the free throw line after a foul on another deep attempt, and the anemic Boston offense struggled to keep pace. They shot 40% from the field in the quarter, and trailed 35-27 heading into the second.
The Celtics’ offensive woes didn’t necessarily get solved as the second quarter progressed, but their defense clamped down on the Cavaliers to a much greater extent. Neither team found much in the way of consistent scoring in the early minutes of the frame, but as the clock ticked down, they started to tighten the screws a little bit. Driven by some tenacious defense, an 8-0 run pushed the Celtics ahead to their largest lead of the first half, and they entered the halftime break leading the Cavaliers 56-50. Cleveland scored just seven points across the last eight-and-a-half minutes of the quarter.
The third quarter was a Jekyll-and-Hyde situation for the Celtics, who looked comfortable and assertive in the opening minutes before giving way to a Cavalier surge as the quarter pressed on. Coach Joe Mazzulla’s aversion to calling timeout reared its head once again, as Cleveland ripped off a 10-0 run over the course of less than two minutes before Mazzulla finally, belatedly, called his first timeout of the entire game (!) at the halfway mark of the third quarter. The momentum shifted towards the Cavaliers in a hurry, and a 33-20 quarter for Cleveland left the Celtics down seven points as the game entered its final quarter.
The Celtics ended the third quarter with two free throws from Tatum, and as the game shifted into the fourth, those freebies became the spearhead of a 14-0 Boston run. The Cavaliers went nearly six minutes without recording a made field goal, and the Celtics were able to reestablish control of the game in the process. A 16-6 start to the fourth quarter put Boston ahead by three points just about halfway through the frame.
The Cavaliers weren’t finished just yet. After a few minutes worth of traded buckets, a LeVert three-pointer followed by a Mobley two pushed Cleveland back to a lead with just under four minutes to play in regulation. The two teams traded buckets for the next possessions, before an offensive foul by Brown gave way to a three-pointer from Mitchell and a layup (after a Smart layup) to put the Cavaliers ahead 104-100.
Smart would connect on an and-one jumper moments later, but Mitchell would hit another three with just under a minute left to play. A Tatum layup on the ensuing possession would bring the Celtics to a 106-105 deficit. With less than 20 seconds to play, the foul game began, and a Grant Williams foul that may not have been fully intentional put Garland on the line with 10 seconds left. Garland split the two free throws, and the Celtics trailed 107-105 before an assertive slam from Tatum tied the game up with 6.7 seconds remaining. Tatum blocked a shot attempt from Mitchell as time expired, and the game went to overtime.
So the Celtics and Cavaliers went to overtime for the second time in two tries. Cleveland pushed ahead with a 5-2 advantage in the early minutes of the overtime period, as the Celtics struggled to find an offensive rhythm — including a Tatum bucket that was wiped away by an obvious travel. After an open dunk by Allen, Tatum and Brown converted on consecutive baskets to draw the Celtics back within one point with less than a minute to play, 114-113. Smart missed a two-pointer with 28 seconds to play, followed by a Garland miss 3 seconds to go to set up the final shot, but the final possession amounted to nothing, and the Celtics lost yet another game to the Cavaliers in overtime.
Next up, the Celtics return home to the TD Garden for another chance for revenge, facing a Chicago Bulls team that handed them their first loss of the season, this Friday at 7:30 PM EST on ESPN.