Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics beat short-handed Cleveland Cavaliers 99-90

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CLEVELAND — Boston got another big win Friday night. That's all it cared about.

Who played for the Cleveland Cavaliers was of little concern for the surging Celtics.

Marcus Smart scored 19 points, and the Celtics maintained their grip on a playoff spot by holding on for a 99-90 victory over the short-handed Cavaliers.

The Celtics had five players score in double figures. Isaiah Thomas had 17 points, Avery Bradley scored 15 and Tyler Zeller finished with 13.

Boston and Brooklyn are tied with 37-42 records, but the Celtics own the tiebreaker after winning three of their four meetings. Boston is 21-12 since Feb. 21 when it was a season-high 14 games below .500.

The Cavs played without injured All-Star Kyrie Irving after clinching the No. 2 seed in the East on Wednesday. They also rested LeBron James and their other starters in the fourth quarter.

"I threw away my LeBron poster when I was in high school, so I don't care," said Evan Turner, who had a career-high 13 assists for Boston. "Closing out a game like this and winning is huge."

The Celtics led for most of the game before the Cavaliers rallied from a 16-point deficit to lead briefly in the third quarter. Boston regained control and pulled away in the fourth.

Irving was sidelined by a sore right hip and James played 26 minutes, one short of his season low. He finished with 14 points and seven assists.

James admitted going into a game playing limited minutes was an adjustment, but stressed the Cavaliers are keeping other goals in mind.

"Me, being a 12-year veteran, the bigger picture is always what's important," he said. "For us, what's important is to stay in rhythm and also to stay healthy."

The teams meet again Sunday in Boston and could play in the first round of the playoffs if the present seeds hold up.

Asked if would play Sunday, James said: "I don't know. I don't believe so but I'm not quite sure yet."

Kevin Love led Cleveland 19 points, and Timofey Mozgov had 13 in 16 1/2 minutes. The Cavs had won 18 consecutive home games.

"Obviously, they didn't play Love or LeBron in the fourth quarter, but we took a pretty good punch from them in the third," Boston coach Brad Stevens said. "They don't have to show me what they're capable of. I watched them on TV for years, then I saw it in person here earlier this year."

The Celtics led 60-44 early in the third quarter before the Cavaliers went on a 19-6 run. James' three-point play and 3-pointers by Love, Matthew Dellavedova and Mike Miller forced Stevens to call a timeout.

Miller's two free throws gave Cleveland a 70-69 lead with 2:54 remaining. But Jae Crowder made two foul shots to give Boston a 79-77 lead heading into the fourth.

Cleveland missed eight of its first 10 shots of the game, prompting coach David Blatt to go to his bench in the first quarter. Miller, Shawn Marion and James Jones made early appearances.

"We came in with very specific idea how we wanted to play the game minutes-wise and I was remaining true to that regardless of the score," Blatt said.

Irving, who experienced soreness in the hip at Friday's shootaround, was scratched about a half-hour before the game. Guard Iman Shumpert also was out with a bruised right quad.

It was Cleveland's first home loss since Jan. 7 against Houston.

LAUREN HILL TRIBUTE

The Cavaliers held a moment of silence for Lauren Hill, the 19-year-old college basketball player who died Friday after a courageous battle with cancer.

"Obviously it's unfortunate," James said. "You never want anyone's life to be taken away because of an illness. But I think she's in a better place now. Every day struggles she had to deal with throughout her treatment and throughout her care. She's in a better place now. The man above doesn't make any mistakes. While she was here on Earth, in her presence, she inspired a lot of people. "

FIRST TIME

The Celtics lost their first two games of the season against the Cavaliers.

"All we talked about after the last game here was trying to redeem ourselves," Smart said. "That's a talented team we were playing, so we just tried to come out hard to start the game."

TIP-INS

Celtics: Bradley is the lone remaining starter from Boston's first matchup with Cleveland on Nov. 14. F Jared Sullinger and C Kelly Olynyk are now bench players, while G Rajon Rondo and F Jeff Green were traded. ... Boston has one remaining road game, its regular-season finale at Milwaukee on Wednesday

Cavaliers: J.R. Smith, who was averaging 13 points since being acquired in January, played 19 scoreless minutes. ... The Cavaliers are 1-5 when playing without Irving. Dellavedova started at point guard. ... F Tristan Thompson scored two points, but grabbed 12 rebounds. ... Shumpert injured his leg Wednesday. Blatt said the leg was sore and swollen, but the injury isn't serious.

NEXT UP

Celtics: Host Cleveland on Sunday.

Cavaliers: At Boston on Sunday.

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