|Fast Break: Celtics (barely) avenge loss to Cavaliers||01.31.12 at 9:47 pm ET|
If you thought Sunday’s loss to the Cavaliers was bad, Tuesday’s win might have been worse.
After blowing a 12-point lead in the final five minutes at home in the first meeting of their home-and-home series, the C’s let a 22-point lead dwindle to two with 1:18 remaining in Cleveland. Luckily, Kevin Garnett dropped a turnaround jumper and Paul Pierce made a pair of free throws in the waning seconds to on for a 93-90 win.
Pierce finished with a team-high 20 points as well six assists and four rebounds, lifting the Celtics (10-10) to .500 once again. Brandon Bass chipped in 13 points to lead a 28-point effort by the C’s bench.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
In his defense: Cavs rookie Kyrie Irving beat the Celtics with his offense on Sunday night, but his porous defense helped the C’s return the favor two days later. Avery Bradley (8 points) beat him through the back door, making himself an easy target underneath the basket for open layups, and E’Twaun Moore (5 points) took advantage of Irving’s tendency to cheat by knocking down open shots on the perimeter.
Riding the pine: Led once again by Bass (13 points) and Mickael Pietrus (6 points, 2 treys), the Celtics bench dominated the Cavaliers reserves in the early going, outscoring their counterparts 23-5 in the first half alone. Moore and Sasha Pavlovic also lended a helping hand as the C’s established a double-digit lead by halftime.
Protecting the rock (for the most part): Without Rajon Rondo for the seventh straight game, the Celtics assisted on 19 of their first 26 field goals while committing only six turnovers as they built the lead to 22 in the third quarter. The C’s finished with 25 assists on 37 FGs, but their turnovers climbed to 14 — allowing the Cavaliers to climb back into the game.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Hair-raising adventure: Cavaliers center Anderson Varejao‘s Sideshow Bob haircut makes it hard to take him seriously, until he drops 20 points on 10-of-17 shooting and grabs 20 rebounds. Even then, the Celtics didn’t appear to respect his game, as Varejao and his mop ran free much of the night. His performance echoed the larger, lingering Celtics problem of points allowed in the paint.
Boxing out: Along the same lines, the C’s allowed double-digit offensive boards for the fifth straight game. Heck, Varejao totaled 10 offensive rebounds himself. Often, Jermaine O’Neal & Co. simply got out-hustled to the ball.
Giving it up again: Despite the Celtics building a lead as large as 22 — with the knowledge they gave away a game to this same team just two nights earlier — the Cavaliers gave them a scare once again, cutting the lead to single digits with six minutes to play — and slashing it to two with 1:18 remaining. Kyrie Irving once again hurt the C’s. For the record, Pierce was on the floor to watch that collapse unfold.
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