Fast Break: Brandon Bass, Celtics hold off Cavaliers’ charge
|12.28.13 at 3:25 pm ET|
Still without Rajon Rondo to execute the offense down the stretch, the Celtics nearly blew another double-digit lead in the fourth quarter, but a balanced scoring attack helped stave off the Andrew Bynum-less Cavaliers, 103-100.
Jeff Green (19 points, 8 rebounds), Jordan Crawford (19 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists), Avery Bradley (18 points, 8 rebounds), Brandon Bass (15 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists), Courtney Lee (11 points) and Kris Humphries (10 points) all reached double figures to help the Celtics snap a three-game losing skid and improve to 13-17 — half a game behind the Atlantic Division-leading Raptors.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
JG’s hot start: As always seems to be the case against Cleveland, it was evident early that this was a game in which Green was invested. In the first quarter, he scored 12 points on six shots, sinking both of his 3-point attempts, to stake the Celtics to a 24-22 lead in the first 12 minutes. Green scored a season-high 31 points against the Cavaliers a month ago.
Balance beaming: Through three quarters, seven Celtics scored between eight and 17 points (led by Green and Crawford), six C’s had between three and six rebounds (led by Green and Kelly Olynyk) and five C’s had between two and five assists (led by Crawford). This was Brad Stevens basketball at its best, resulting in an 85-66 lead on 52 percent shooting through three.
Big Bass: After struggling since the recent Omer Asik trade rumors, including a scoreless effort against the Timberwolves two weeks ago and a 2-of-9 shooting performance against the Pacers last weekend, Bass bounced back to the form we’ve grown accustomed to from him this season. Or better. He scored 15 points on eight shots, including his second career 3-pointer, grabbed six boards and matched a career-high with four assists. He also made the game-saving block on Dion Waiters in the final seconds.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Crash test fail: Gerald Wallace remains without a double-digit scoring night this month with only one game left in December. He’s reached double figures just twice this season, and his minutes per game have rightfully dipped below 20, including a season-low nine off the bench on Saturday. Only two years and $20.2 million left on that contract, though. Granted, Wallace suffered a first-half blow to the nose that kept him out the entire second half, but even when he returns as expected on Tuesday, perhaps Lee’s recent complaints about playing time were warranted, considering his superior production in fewer minutes.
Watching the paint dry: The Celtics continue to get abused in the key, getting outscored in the paint by double digits and allowing 20 second-chance points on 10 offensive boards. Hence, Danny Ainge‘s recent interest in the Asik sweepstakes. It could be interesting to monitor Bynum’s contract, which is non-guaranteed this season until Jan. 7. Whatever detrimental conduct he did to deserve an open-ended suspension from the Cavaliers, 26-year-old 7-foot former All-Stars don’t come on the open market too often.
Fourth-quarter woes: The Celtics continued to watch leads evaporate in late-game situations, as a lead as large as 22 dipped to eight with six minutes remaining. Cleveland’s backcourt of Kyrie Irving (32 points) and Waiters alone outscored the C’s 13-9 in the first half of the final quarter. The Cavs further sliced the lead to two in the final minute, but Bass’ block of Waiters helped prevent overtime.