Rapid Reaction: Celtics 93, Cavs 90

January, 31, 2012
1/31/12
9:40
PM ET
David Richard/US PresswireRay Allen delivers a dish around Anderson Varejao during Tuesday's game.
Rapid reaction after the Boston Celtics defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 93-90 Tuesday night at Quicken Loans Arena:

HOW THE GAME WAS WON
Paul Pierce paced five Celtics players in double figures with 20 points (adding 6 assists and 4 rebounds), but it was Kevin Garnett (13 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists) and Brandon Bass (13 points, 6 rebounds) who produced the clutch late-game buckets helping the Celtics escape with a should-have-been-easier triumph after leading by as much as 22 with under 15 minutes to play. Anderson Varejao single-handedly kept the Cavaliers in the game, producing 20 points (on 10-of-17 shooting) and 20 rebounds (10 on each end of the court) and rookie No. 1 pick Kyrie Irving (game-high 21 points and 6 assists) gave his team a spark late, helping make it a one-possession game in the waning moments.

NO CELTICS LEAD SAFE VS. CAVS
The Celtics came out strong after the intermission (keyed by Ray Allen's 12 third-quarter points) and turned a 12-point halftime cushion into as much as a 22-point lead after Allen's 3-pointer with 2:43 to play in the third quarter. But Boston clearly didn't learn from Sunday's loss in which the Cavaliers rallied from an 11-point deficit over the final four minutes. Cleveland got some momentum and rallied all the way to within a bucket when Irving's layup made it 89-87 with 78 ticks to play. Isolated on Varejao, Garnett got a turnaround jumper to rattle home with 1:04 to go and Jermaine O'Neal swatted a Varejao layup attempt at the other end helping Boston hang on.

BENCH PROVIDES AN EARLY SPARK
Boston's bench aided its early success as reserves Bass, E'Twaun Moore, Sasha Pavlovic, and Mickael Pietrus combined for 23 first-half points. Alas, everyone but Bass -- who played starter-sized minutes -- disappeared in the second half. Bass scored the bench's only five points after the intermission, making two big jumpers to keep Cleveland at arm's length down the stretch.

LINE OF THE NIGHT
Flummoxed for much of the night by the whistles from referee Karl Lane, Celtics TV analyst Tommy Heinsohn declared in the fourth quarter, "His name is Lane, they should show him the highway."

WHAT IT MEANS
Well, the Celtics clearly are not going for style points this year. They're also clearly not trying to make things easy for themselves. That said, unlike Sunday night, they managed to emerge with the win, pulling their record back to .500 at 10-10. Maintaing a 22-point cushion might have allowed Boston some fresher legs for when the Toronto Raptors visit Wednesday night, so it will be interesting to see how the Celtics respond with the quick turnaround.

Chris Forsberg

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Jeff Green
PTS AST STL MIN
18.4 2.0 1.2 35.2
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Sullinger 8.4
AssistsR. Rondo 10.7
StealsR. Rondo 1.7
BlocksJ. Sullinger 0.9