Rapid Reaction: Celtics 103, Cavaliers 91
THE NITTY GRITTY
Celtics captain Paul Pierce poured in 40 points on super-efficient 13-of-16 shooting, which included 6-of-7 shooting beyond the 3-point arc. It was the 24th 40-point effort of Pierce's career, but only the second regular-season outburst since February 2006. Pierce added 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals and a block while finishing plus-29 overall. Rajon Rondo added 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting with eight assists. Kyrie Irving (22 points) and Tyler Zeller (20 points) keyed Cleveland's offense, while Tristan Thompson added 11 points and 12 rebounds.
The Celtics were up eight at halftime and Pierce went from hot to unconscious in the third quarter. Pierce poured in 15 points on 7-of-7 shooting over the first seven minutes of the frame. During one stretch, Pierce alone went on a 12-2 run that culminated with consecutive 3-pointers and a 75-57 lead with 4:55 to play in the frame. Pierce went to the bench a minute later with 32 points on 10-of-12 shooting, having made all six of the 3-pointers he had hoisted to that point. That should have been enough to cue up Gino, but ...
C'S HOLD ON FOR DEAR LIFE
Boston led by as much as 20 in the third quarter, only to have Cleveland cut its deficit in half before the end of the frame. Boston was left clinging to an 82-80 lead with nine minutes to go after a 20-2 run by the Cavs, but a Rondo jumper and two freebies (when he got lucky to avoid his sixth foul with a near charge) put the Celtics back in control. The Cavaliers never made it closer than a two-possession game the rest of the way.
RONDO THE SCORER
Rondo didn't register his first assist of the game until midway through the second quarter when he fed Pierce for a 3-pointer with 4:56 to play in the first half. Rondo finished the first half with 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting with 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals.
EXPERIMENT WORKS FOR THE JASONS
Back in the starting lineup after three games as a reserve, Jason Terry chipped in 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting over 35 minutes. Jason Collins, drawing his first start of the season, played a season-high 23:16 and despite a quiet stat line (1 points, 2 rebounds) played solid defense and was plus-23 overall. Collins did foul out and got tagged with a flagrant foul-1 for a hard foul that saw him dislodge Thompson's face mask late in the game.
WHAT IT MEANS
Nothing like the Anderson Varejao-less Cavaliers to cure what ails you ... even if Boston's second-half lull sent coach Doc Rivers' blood pressure dangerously high. Pierce put the C's on his shoulders and carried them to a must-have win. The Celtics will get a day to rest before hosting the Milwaukee Bucks (yes, the Bucks again for the fourth time in 26 games) on Friday night. A four-game road trip looms after that, starting on Christmas Day in Brooklyn before Boston treks out west for three games to close out the calendar year.
Play Podcast ESPN NFL reporter Field Yates covers expectations for Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots' outlook, LeSean McCoy's injury and Alex Smith's contract negotiations with the Chiefs.
Play Podcast Buster Olney and Justin Havens discuss how teams that made major deals have fared since the deadline. Plus, Cubs GM Jed Hoyer on the strange circumstances caused by weather.