Tatum scores 32, leads Celtics past Cavaliers 112-106
By Steve Herrick, Associated Press
CLEVELAND (AP) — Jayson Tatum scored 32 points and the Boston Celtics defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 112-106 on Wednesday night in a matchup of short-handed teams.
The Celtics were missing three starters — Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown and Gordon Hayward — while the Cavaliers played without starters Andre Drumnond and rookie Darius Garland.
The Celtics bounced back from an overtime defeat to Brooklyn on Tuesday night in which they couldn’t hold a 21-point, second-half lead and lost in overtime.
“That was one of the most rewarding wins I’ve been a part of.,” Boston coach Brad Stevens said. “We were gassed from last night. I thought both teams were dead in the fourth quarter, but our guys kept fighting.”
Tatum who didn’t play in that game because of an illness, gave the Celtics a much-needed clutch performance. He was 11 of 24 from the field, hit five 3-pointers, and had nine rebounds and six assists.
“We could have made excuses because a lot of our guys aren’t here, but we don’t do that,” Tatum said. “I just tried to do my part. It was good to be out there.”
Celtics forward Semi Ojeleye scored a career-high 22 points. His basket gave Boston a 90-89 lead with 6:24 to play. Ojeleye was helped to the locker room with a leg injury before halftime, but returned in the third.
Cavaliers rookie swingman Kevin Porter Jr. left in the first half with a head injury and didn’t return.
Collin Sexton scored a career-high 41 points, making 17 of 29 shots from the field. His previous career high was 32 against Utah. The second-year guard has scored in double figures in 33 straight games and hasn’t missed a game in his career.
“The idea of what he’s able to do every night,” Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “It’s hard. How many guys can go out and get 20 every single night in this league? There aren’t many of them. And of the same guys, how many are available for all 82? What he’s doing isn’t common by any means.”
Marcus Smart scored 12 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter and made all eight of his free throw attempts.
Boston was up by 13 points in the second quarter and led 58-52 at halftime. The Cavaliers led several times in the second half before the Celtics, who are third in the Eastern Conference, took over late in the game.
Kevin Love had 26 points and 14 rebounds for Cleveland, and Larry Nance Jr. had 19 points and 15 rebounds.
Porter was listed in the starting lineup, but Matthew Dellevedova was on the floor for the opening tip. Porter, who forgot to put on his entire uniform before the game, rushed to the scorer’s table as the game began and entered at the first stoppage.
Bickerstaff said Porter’s injury was still being evaluated after the game.
Stevens said Brown, who strained his right hamstring Tuesday, will miss a minimum of seven days. Walker scored 21 points Tuesday after missing five games with a knee injury. Stevens said Walker and Hayward, who has a bruised right knee, could play Friday against Utah.
Drummond (strained left calf) and Garland (strained left groin) have missed the last two games while Tristan Thompson (bruised left knee) has been out three in a row.
Celtics: Smart played after confronting two officials on the court following Tuesday’s game. Stevens doesn’t know if Smart will be suspended by the NBA. “I don’t know what their procedure is,” he said. ... Smart and Brad Wannamaker started in the backcourt while Robert Williams started at center.
Cavaliers: Nance started at center for the second straight game. ... Cleveland, with the worst record in the conference, dressed 10 players.
Stevens coached at Butler for six seasons before taking the Celtics job in 2013. He empathizes with John Beilein, who resigned as Cavaliers coach on Feb. 19 after 54 games. Beilein took the Cleveland job after coaching in college for 27 seasons.
“At the end of the day, there is only so much you can do to prepare for this,” Stevens said. “But it looks good from the outside until you’re in it. It’s just a different thing.”
Celtics: host Utah on Friday. Tatum scored 33 points against the Jazz in a 114-103 win on Feb. 26.
Cavaliers: host Denver on Saturday. Cleveland defeated the Nuggets on the road 111-103 on Jan. 11.
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