Cleveland guts out a hard-fought win at home, beats Boston 112-99

We knew it was going to be a battle, but it wasn't the dismantling we expected, nor the win we'd been hoping for, either. The Cleveland Cavaliers won the opening tip, but it took several possessions before Kevin Love got the first points of the game, a deep 3 followed by a slash to the basket earning a pair of free throws he converted to put the Cavs up 5 early. Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley managed to get Boston back within 1 with 9 to go in the first, but a Crowder trey put Boston back on top. Help from Avery and Al Horford pushed the lead to 6 with about 7 left in the first frame. A LeBron James bucket seemed to suggest a turn in fortunes, but a goaltend on the other end negated the effort. Tight whistles sent both teams to the line early and often, but another Crowder 3 pushed the lead to 7 while the Cavs stayed cold.

A Love telegraph pass to James for a dunk forced an early timeout from coach Brad Stevens, clearly concerned LBJ might start to catch fire. Jae, however, continued his slow burn, answering back with a layup of his own, and Jonas Jerebko managed to get to the line and convert, pushing the lead to 9 with 3 remaining. Soon, Kelly Olynyk and Jaylen Brown added to an 11-2 Boston run, pushing the lead to 11. Kyrie Irving stopped the bleeding, and Tristan Thompson whittled away the lead until Olynyk answered back to end the first 28-19 Boston.

LeBron hit first in the second, but Jae managed to quickly return the favor. Another James dunk seemed to signal him heating up, but the Celts managed to strip him on the next possession and feed Brown for a basket. Iman Shumpert followed up with a long jumper to cut the lead to 9, and a Love dunk cut it further to just 35-28 at the 9 minute mark of the second quarter, forcing another Celtics timeout. Marcus Smart somehow roped LeBron into his THIRD foul of the game right afterwards on a 3-point play, and converted all of them. Shumpert dunked on the next play, but Terry Rozier dropped a trey of his own...only to see Love answer right back with another. LeBron, however, picked up his fourth foul charging Terry, and Brown hit a wide open three to extend the lead to 13 at 6:28.

Irving did everything in his power to keep the Cavs from getting buried, scoring Cleveland's next 8 points, cutting the lead to 8 with 2 minutes left in the half, and a Thompson hook just 6 before Horford drained an awkward two to slow the Cavs advance. Bradley added a quick two on a layup assisted by Smart, but then fouled on the other end to send Irving to the line to convert. Olynyk answered with his own bucket in the final seconds of the half to leave Boston up ten at the half, 57-47.

Olynyk opened the half with a layup to push the lead to 12, but both teams turned the ball over repeatedly until Irving scored a layup of his own to make it 59-49. A foul sent Thompson to the line, but he was only able to convert one of two from the stripe. A Smart steal from LeBron pushed the lead back to 11, but a pair of James buckets forced a third Boston timeout as the lead was cut to 61-54 with just under 9 left in the third. A J.R. Smith tip in of a missed LBJ trey cut the lead to 5 with 8 to go, but a Smart 3 and Jonas Jerebko foul put Boston back up 8 with 7 left. LeBron and Love answered right back with a pair of makes to cut it to 5 with 6 remaining in the third. Horford battled back with a bucket and free throws, but a Smith trey cut the lead to just 3 with 5 to go, and an Irving make to only 1 shortly after.

An outlet pass to LeBron seemed to be the end of Boston's lead, only to see a tired-looking LBJ flub the dunk and Olynyk give the Cavs a taste of their own medicine. Irving hit a trey on the next play, and LeBron drew a foul to take a 73-72 lead with 3 left in the third, added to by a pair of Irving layups, the latter of which appeared to cause him to turn his ankle. A trip for Avery to the free throw line and a trey slowed the bleeding, cutting the lead to 3 with a minute and a half left in the third frame. Irving's ankle seemed fine, however, as he got an and-1 bucket on the next trip down the court. Jaylen nearly slipped on the court too, but was bailed out with a foul, converting both and cutting the lead to 82-78 before Irving torched his defender with a trey at the third quarter buzzer.

Horford dropped a quick 3 to open the final frame and cut the lead to 6, and a Crowder trey got it to 4, but a missed Smart assignment gave Deron Williams a make, and Horford committed a goaltend to hand the Cavs back an 8 point lead. Boston continued with sloppy play on both ends, failing to make ground against the Cleveland attack early in the fourth, led by LeBron. Horford got Boston back into it with a pair of buckets to cut the lead to 6 with just under 7 to go. Love and Bradley traded deep shots, but James hit an uncontested dunk to keep the Cavs in control until Jerebko hit a 3 with 4 on the clock. LeBron countered with one of his own, his first of the evening.

Another bucket by James with just under 2 left seemed to spell the end until Olynyk hit back on the next possession, and then Love seemed to turn his ankle on the next play while Boston tried to foul with time running out. A Smart airballed 3 and hesitancy on both ends of the court were enough to give the Cavs the win, however, a 112-99 affair that was much closer than the score indicated. Boston next plays the Cavs at home this Thursday, at 8:30 PM EST.

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Photo via AP Photo/Tony Dejak
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