Celtics hang on to lead, edge Cavaliers
BOSTON - The Boston Celtics have had all kinds of trouble holding second-half leads this season.
They did it again on Saturday.
This time, they survived.
Forward Brandon Bass blocked Cleveland guard Dion Waiters' potential game-tying drive to the basket in the closing seconds, allowing the Celtics, who blew most of a 22-point third-quarter lead, to hang on for a 103-100 victory.
The loss, Cleveland's fourth straight and sixth in the last seven games, came in the Cavaliers' first game after handing center Andrew Bynum an indefinite suspension for "conduct detrimental to the team."
The win ended a two-game losing streak for the Celtics (13-17).
Guard Jordan Crawford and forward Jeff Green led the Celtics with 19 points each, Crawford adding five rebounds and five assists and Green eight boards.
Guard Avery Bradley, who went 1-for-2 at the line to close the scoring with 1.4 seconds left, delivered 18 points and eight rebounds and Bass had 15 points, six rebounds and a career high-matching four assists.
The Cavaliers called timeout after Bradley's free throw, but forward Earl Clark's attempted 3-pointer was too late and well short, anyway.
Guard Kyrie Irving led all scorers with 32 points (21 in the second half), while Waiters came off the bench to score 17 points for the Cavaliers.
The Celtics led by 22 points three minutes into the third quarter and by 19 at the end of three.
But the Cavaliers opened the finale on a 22-9 run to cut the deficit to six. After four straight Boston free throws, guard Jarrett Jack hit two straight 3-pointers and it was 98-94 with 2:38 remaining.
It got down to two with 43.3 seconds left, after Bass had given his team a six-point lead on two free throws after an offensive rebound with 1:30 left.
Crawford hit Boston's last basket, with 2:08 left.
Before the game, Cleveland coach Mike Brown was vague on Bynum, who might be trying to force a trade. Brown pointed out the suspension is "indefinite."
Irving, the best player on this team, said: "It's just a terrible situation internally with our team. It's just something we have to get over."We need him out there. He's a dominant force for our team. It's hard. You lose a teammate, but with this situation it gives everyone else a chance to step up. That's kind of how we look at it.
"He's going to be missed, but we've still got to win games. That's what it's all about."
Bynum, who missed last season because of a knee injury after being traded from the Los Angeles Lakers to the Philadelphia 76ers, was averaging 8.4 points and 5.3 rebounds per game for the Cavaliers.
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Notes: Center Anderson Varajao replaced Andrew Bynum in the Cleveland starting lineup after Bynum was suspended for "conduct detrimental to the team," which probably means the end of his brief stay in Cleveland. Reports were already circulating Bynum is trying to force a trade to the Miami Heat or Los Angeles Clippers. His contract would be favorable for a deal. ... Boston forward Brandon Bass hit a 3-pointer in the third quarter, his second career trey on his 18th try. ... Things were so quiet at TD Garden in the first quarter that a female fan seated near the press area, shouted: "What's wrong with you people? This is not church." ... The Cavaliers return home and host the Golden State Warriors on today, while the Celtics host the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday, Boston's third straight home matinee.