Wrap-Up — On Tuesday night against Orlando, the Cavaliers blew things open in the third quarter. On Wednesday night – in a much bigger matchup against Boston – it was the second, outscoring the Celtics by 16 points in the period and never looking back.
In a game billed as a heavyweight bout between the East’s top two squads, it was the Wine and Gold who delivered the early TKO – improving to 3-1 against Boston this season and reclaiming the top spot in the Conference with a dominating 114-91 win on Wednesday night at the TD Garden.
The Celtics took a one-point lead after one quarter, but that was as good as it would get Brad Stevens’ squad – who trailed by as many as 29 before both benches were emptied late in the fourth period.
Boston had won nine of their previous 11 heading into Wednesday’s contest and were poised to prove a point against the reigning Champs. But the Cavaliers – who came in winners of three straight – showed them they’re still the East’s alpha dogs, taking their fifth win the last seven meetings against the Celts.
LeBron James continued to torment the Celtics – leading both squads with 36 points on 14-for-22 shooting, adding 10 boards, six assists and a pair of blocked shots.
Kyrie Irving followed up with 19 points on 7-for-18 shooting, adding five boards and a pair of steals.
Kyrie’s Celtics counterpart and fellow All-Star, Isaiah Thomas, had topped the 30-mark in all three previous meetings with Cleveland this year, but the Cavs’ combination of Irving, J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert kept him from affecting Wednesday night’s game – notching a quiet 26 points on 9-for-19 shooting.
Kevin Love stayed on a roll as well, tallying his 38th double-double of the season – leading both squads with 16 points to go with 12 points and an assist.
J.R. Smith notched his fifth straight game in double-figures – finishing with 12 points and a pair of steals.
Channing Frye got the start at center for an injured Tristan Thompson – who suffered a sprained right thumb in Tuesday’s game and was forced to miss Wednesday’s matchup, snapping his franchise-record consecutive games-played streak at 447. Frye filled in admirably, finishing 10 points, eight boards and a pair of steals.
All five Cavs starters score in double figures as the Wine and Gold win their fourth straight.
The Cavaliers beat Boston on the break, in the paint and on second-chance scoring while dominating the Celtics on the boards, 51-38, and missing just a single free throw (17-of-18) on the night.
Defensively, Cleveland held the C’s to just 41 percent shooting, including 21 percent (7-for-33) from beyond the arc.
Turning Point — After a sluggish first quarter for both squads, the Wine and Gold simply caught fire in the second – and they wasted no time heating up.
Richard Jefferson scored on a dunk to give Cleveland the lead back and LeBron opened the floodgates opened from there – scoring 12 points in less than five minutes of work and keying a 22-4 run that turned a one-point deficit into a 17-point Cavaliers’ edge.
The Celtics would cut Cleveland’s lead to nine with just under three minutes to play before half, but the Cavs closed the second quarter on a 12-6 run to snuff the comeback.
By the Numbers – .941 … Cavaliers’ winning percentage against the Atlantic Division this season – going 16-1 against the Nets, Knicks, Celtics, Raptors and Sixers – beating them by an average of almost 11 points per (115.5 – 104.7) with their lone loss coming on March 1 in Boston.
Quotable – Kevin Love, on Cleveland’s big win in Boston …
”You saw it in the 3rd quarter last night, we played really good basketball and I think tonight we put together a good string of basketball for just about 48 minutes and it felt like us. It had been a while since we have put together a game like that and we needed that. It’s a great environment, the fans are great here, they get on top of you and they are well coached and have great personnel. Tonight was big for us.”
Up Next — After demolishing the Celtics on Wednesday night in Boston, the Cavaliers are less than a week away from wrapping up the 2016-17 regular season. On Friday night, they welcome the Hawks to The Q before getting back on the road for a quick back-to-back – taking on those same Hawks on Sunday night in Atlanta followed by a trip to South Beach to face the Heat on Monday. Cleveland closes out the campaign when the Raptors roll in for Fan Appreciation Night next Wednesday night at The Q.
Calls of the Game