Game 27: Cavs at Celtics
Radio/TV: WTAM (1100 AM)/Fox Sports Ohio
WHAT HAPPENED: The Cavs dropped their fifth game in a row, but they played hard. They used a 20-2 run to cut a 20-point deficit to two points early in the fourth quarter.
But the Cavs didn't have enough umph to get over the hump. One reason they hung around was they turned the ball over a season-low nine times.
They also battled the Celtics on the boards, 35-35, despite missing the league's top rebounder in Anderson Varejao. He missed the game with a right knee contusion. Contusion is the new catch phrase with the Cavs. They've had about 10 of them this year. In layman's terms, it's a bruise.
Rookie Tyler Zeller stepped in and made his first career start. It won't be his last. The Cavs found out what life would be without Varejao. If they decide to trade him - a very bad idea in my book - Zeller would be the starter. Zeller had a career-high 20 points and three rebounds. He made 9 of 15 from the field.
He doesn't provide the defensive energy that Varejao does, but is more skilled offensively. He'll eventually move into the starting lineup. He's just too talented not to.
The Cavs hope that Varejao can return for the Indiana game on Friday. He might be questionable for the Pacers.
One could make a case he outplayed Celtics center Kevin Garnett, who finished with 12 points, six rebounds and three blocks.
All five starters scored in double figures, led by Kyrie Irving's 22 points, four rebounds and two assists. The Cavs had just 18 assists in the game. Shooting guard Dion Waiters ended with 13 points, four rebounds and a team-high four assists.
Power forward Tristan Thompson had 11 points and a game-high 12 rebounds. He didn't shoot the ball well, just 2 of 10 from the field. He did knock down 7 of 9 from the foul line. The only two he missed came after he was clobbered in the face by Celtics forward/center Jason Collins, who drew a flagrant-1 foul.
The Cavs have now lost 20 of their last 23 games. They are 2-14 on the road and 0-8 on the second night of a back-to-back set.
Celtics forward Paul Pierce had a season-high 40 points. It was his 21st game of 40 or more points in his career. He made 13 of 16 from the field, 6 of 7 from the 3-point line and 8 of 8 from the foul line. Cavs forward Alonzo Gee tried to guard him to no avail.
Point guard Rajon Rondo came into the game leading the league in assists at 12.7 per game. He was very good on Wednesday with 20 points, four rebounds, a game-high eight assists and two steals.
The Cavs were also playing without backup guard Daniel Gibson, who missed the game with a sprained right ankle. They have had their whole team together for seven games this season.
LAST GAME: The Cavs lost to Toronto on Tuesday, 113-99.
UP NEXT: The Cavs host Indiana at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Quicken Loans Arena.
SF Alonzo Gee (6-6, 219) vs. Paul Pierce (6-7, 235)
PF Tristan Thompson (6-9, 227) vs. Jason Collins (7-0, 255)
C Tyler Zeller (7-0, 250) vs. Kevin Garnett (6-11, 253)
SG Dion Waiters (6-4, 221) vs. Jason Terry (6-2, 180)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 191) vs. Rajon Rondo (6-1, 186)
Cavs – C Anderson Varejao, F Jon Leuer
Celtics - C Fab Melo
Zach Zarba, Scott Bolnick, John Goble