Cleveland, OH – Jeff Green's layup at the buzzer prevented the Boston Celtics from enduring a sixth straight loss, with the basket accounting for the deciding points in a 93-92 comeback win over the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena.
Green finished with 21 points and seven rebounds, while Brandon Bass scored a season-high 22 points to help Boston rally from a 14-point deficit with eight minutes remaining and earn a much-needed victory. Paul Pierce nearly notched a triple-double in the triumph, accumulating 19 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.
"It was a huge win," said Pierce. "We didn't play well from the second quarter on, but we found a way. It seemed like we were mentally fatigued and physically fatigued, but we put it all together at the end."
Wayne Ellington netted 16 points for Cleveland, which was outscored by a 21-6 margin over the final eight minutes and shot just 36.8 percent in the fourth quarter. C.J. Miles and Marreese Speights each had 13 points off the bench in the loss, the Cavaliers' sixth in a row and eighth in nine games.
The Celtics appeared on the verge of another defeat after a 13-3 run ignited by a Daniel Gibson 3-pointer and capped by back-to-back buckets from Speights staked the Cavs to an 86-72 lead with 8:08 left to play.
Cleveland made just two field goals the rest of the way, however, and Boston put forth a furious late charge to get back in it.
Down by eight with under three minutes to go, Boston ripped off seven consecutive points and pulled to within 90-89 when Green was fouled on a successful jumper and hit the resulting free throw with 1:43 remaining.
"I thought we stopped being aggressive," said Cavaliers head coach Byron Scott. "We were looking at the clock, playing not to lose the game instead of win the game. With 5:40 left in the game, we get one field goal for the rest of the game. You have to look to win. You can't hope the clock runs out and I thought that's what we kind of did."
The Celtics came up empty on their next two trips down the court, and Miles hit two free throws with 39 seconds showing for a three-point differential. Pierce then buried a short fadeaway and Cleveland's Shaun Livingston missed with the shot clock winding down, with Jordan Crawford pulling down the rebound for Boston.
After a timeout, Green received a pass from Avery Bradley near the foul line, drove right and laid the ball in an instant before the final horn sounded.
"(Jason Terry) set a good screen on my man, and Avery made a good pass," Green remarked. "I just tried to be aggressive and get to the rim."
The Cavaliers had controlled the action for the majority of the second half and created some distance with an 13-0 burst to go up 62-50 less than five minutes into the third quarter. An 11-2 sequence from Boston later on in the period trimmed the Celtics' deficit to 68-65, but Cleveland opened the fourth on fire to go back in front by double digits.
Boston had built a 12-point lead on the strength of 6-0 second-quarter run, highlighted by a Pierce triple and a Crawford bucket that made the score 35-23 with 7:40 left in the half. The Celtics then proceeded to miss their next six shots, and Cleveland capitalized with an 11-1 spurt over the ensuing four minutes to close within two.
The Cavaliers took a 45-44 edge on a Tyler Zeller jumper 34.9 seconds prior to intermission, but a Bass layup on the following possession sent Boston back in front at the break.
Cleveland shot just 31.8 percent in the first quarter and trailed by a 24-15 count before Miles finished out the period with a 3-pointer.
Bass' previous season high was 16 points, set four times previously and last accomplished at Dallas this past Friday ... Livingston and Gee each ended with 12 points for Cleveland, with Crawford scoring 12 for Boston on 5-of-8 shooting ... The Celtics scored 23 points off 19 Cleveland turnovers, 12 of which came after halftime ... Boston has now won in four of their last five stops at Quicken Loans Arena, with the lone loss over that stretch a 95-90 setback on Jan. 22.