His team out of timeouts and almost out of hope, Boston coach Doc Rivers took advantage of a video review with 2.1 seconds left and diagrammed a play that led to Jeff Green scoring at the buzzer, giving the Celtics a 93-92 win in front of 17,130 stunned fans.
The play actually started at three-quarters court with 9.2 seconds left, but Cleveland’s Alonzo Gee poked the ball out of Paul Pierce’s hands and out of bounds in front of the Cavs bench with 2.1 ticks on the clock.
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“There was no question, because I hit it,” Gee said.
Officials Bill Kennedy, Brian Forte and J.T. Orr wanted to make sure, so they went to the scorer’s table to review the video, giving Rivers several minutes to huddle his players.
“You basically give them another timeout,” Cavs coach Byron Scott said. “(The play) was very clear.”
Equally clear was how badly the Cavs (22-48), who now have a six-game losing streak for the third time this season, botched the subsequent inbounds play.
Cleveland was supposed to switch everything, but when Green and Jason Terry came together on the opposite side of the court from where Avery Bradley was inbounding, the Cavs’ Wayne Ellington missed his assignment.
Veteran Luke Walton switched onto Terry, as he was instructed to do, with Green flashing back to the ball and catching Bradley’s inbounds pass right in the middle of the court, one step above the 3-point line.
Already headed right, Green took one dribble, leaped and split Ellington and Shaun Livingston at the rim for his 20th and 21st points of the night.
“We didn’t switch it like we wanted to,” Scott said. “You’ve got to give Boston some credit. It was a good play, but we were a little lackadaisical.”
Green’s bucket was also reviewed, but there was no question it was good, helping Boston (37-34) end a five-game losing streak and sending the Cavs to their 10th loss in 12 games.
“Talking on defense is not the hardest thing in the world — to me,” Scott said. “We just don’t do it on a consistent basis. That’s one of our biggest problems on the defensive end.”
On this night, there were also problems on the offensive end and on the bench, as the Cavs led by 14 points inside of eight minutes and by eight with less than three minutes to go.
Up 86-72 with 8:08 remaining, Cleveland scored two points over the next 5:12 and six the rest of the game as the Celtics, who played without Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo, Courtney Lee and Jared Sullinger, closed on a 21-6 run.
“They turned up the pressure defensively and we kind of got a little bit stagnant,” said Ellington, who led the Cavs with 16 points. “We were trying to hang on to the lead. Nobody wanted to make a mistake or miss a shot.”
Scott was not without blame, as the Cavs, who were playing without Kyrie Irving, Anderson Varejao and Dion Waiters, ended the game with three timeouts and used none over the last 2:16.
Cleveland did not make a field goal in the final 2:55, with C.J. Miles missing a 3-pointer at 2:23, Livingston committing a turnover at 1:59, Livingston missing on a drive at 1:29 and Ellington missing two short jumpers in the final 58 seconds.
The only two points came on a pair of Miles free throws with 39 seconds left.
“I knew what they were going to do,” Scott said when asked why he didn’t call timeout down the stretch. “They were going to switch everything and it was going to be the same thing we ended up with.
“(Livingston) was going to have the ball or (Ellington) was going to have the ball. They were going to have to try and make a play.”
With Scott sitting on timeouts he doesn’t get to carry over into a Friday home game against Philadelphia, the Cavs made just two field goals in the final 8:08 and were 1-for-9 over the last 5:49, when they also committed three turnovers.
The Celtics, meanwhile, executed perfectly after a video review basically gave them a timeout they didn’t have.
“We wanted to make the action look like it was for (Pierce), then for (Terry),” Rivers said. “The whole time it was for (Green) to pop off a screen.
“I thought he was our best advantage. (Pierce) is our best offensive player, but there are certain nights when your team has a better advantage.”
- In addition to Ellington, the Cavs got 13 points from Marreese Speights and Miles, who also set a career high with six assists, 12 points from Gee and Livingston and 11 points and nine rebounds from Tyler Zeller. Zeller was 5-for-6 from the field but played just 24 minutes. He sat on the bench for the final 14:05.
- Daniel Gibson, who made two 3-pointers for six points, tied his season high with six assists in 22 minutes.
- For Boston, Green added seven rebounds and five assists to his 21 points, while Brandon Bass had 22 points and Pierce had 19 points, 10 boards and eight assists.
- Down 35-23 with 7:43 left in the first half, the Cavs outscored the Celtics 39-17 over the next 12:30 to go up 62-50. The stretch concluded with a 13-0 spurt.
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.