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Running on empty: Cavs outmuscle shorthanded Celtics

04.05.13 at 9:55 pm ET
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Life without Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett was ugly Friday night. Very ugly.

Second-year big man Tristan Thompson scored 29 points and grabbed 17 rebounds while the Celtics went ice cold in the second half and fell to the lowly Cavaliers, 97-91, Friday night at TD Garden. Pierce missed the game with a sore right ankle while Garnett missed his eighth straight game with inflammation in his left ankle. Cleveland won two of the three meetings this season between the two.

The Cavaliers used the Celtics to snap their 10-game losing streak while Boston fell for the third time in four games. The Celtics fell to 39-37 on the season but did not lose any ground on eight-place Milwaukee, which lost to the Knicks in New York. Boston remains in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, two games ahead of the Bucks in the loss column. Boston has six games remaining, including two games on its current four-game homestand. Jeff Green led the Celtics with 23 points and nine rebounds.

In a first half of unknown and unlikely heroes, it was Tristan Thompson became the latest opposing big man to dominate the Celtics inside. Behind Thompson’s career high in points and rebounds, the Cavaliers outscored the Celtics 52-38 in the paint and outrebounded Boston, 58-42.

Thompson, the second-year player out of Texas, scored 21 points and hauled in 11 rebounds in the first two quarters, as the Cavaliers (23-52) erased an eight-point deficit early in the second quarter, using a 10-0 run to forge a 52-52 halftime tie.

Shav Randolph had the best first half of his NBA career, scoring a career-high 13 points and grabbing five rebounds in the first 15 minutes of the game. But as has often been the case in his short stint with the Celtics, foul trouble limited his time on the court as he picked up three first-half fouls.

The Celtics built a seven-point lead, 62-55, on an Avery Bradley three with 8:13 left in the third. But then the wheels fell off as the Celtics went ice cold. Boston was just 6-for-27 (27.3 percent) from the field. Cleveland went on a 19-3 run to take a 74-65 lead before Jordan Crawford hit a three to cut Cleveland’s lead to 74-68 heading into the fourth.

But Cleveland scored the first eight points of the fourth to take a 14-point lead. Randolph picked up two fouls in a minute in the third quarter and then fouled out with 6:57 left in the fourth. Randolph finished with a career-high 16 points and seven rebounds.

Jason Terry hit a baseline three with 5:46 left to bring Boston within four, 87-83, as the crowd became a factor again. But Thompson’s put-back dunk with five minutes left answered the Celtics run, putting Cleveland back up by six.

With 3:18 left in the game and the Celtics down eight, 91-83, Bradley left the game and headed for the locker room with trainer Ed Lacerte. He suffered a bruised left collar bone and returned to the bench with two minutes left in regulation but did not play. With 2:09 left in the game Green completed a three-point play to draw Boston within four again, 91-87 but an easy alley-oop layup by Tyler Zeller and a jumper by Kyrie Irving with 1:22 left put Cleveland up, 95-87.

The Celtics are off Saturday before returning to action at home on Sunday night (6 p.m.) against the Wizards at TD Garden. Boston concludes its four-game homestand on Wednesday night. For more, visit the Celtics team page at weei.com/celtics.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Jeff Green, Kevin Garnett
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