Tatum explodes in third to help Celtics outlast Cavaliers
BOSTON (AP) — Jayson Tatum scored 18 points in a pivotal third quarter and finished with 41 points as the Boston Celtics held on to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 118-113 on Wednesday night.
Tatum added 11 rebounds and eight assists as Boston earned its first victory in three games versus Cleveland this season. With his 20th career 40-point game, the 24-year-old Tatum surpassed Giannis Antetokounmpo for seventh place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list for players under 25.
It helped Tatum outduel fellow All-Star Donovan Mitchell, who scored 44 points and sidestepped an injury following a fall in the third quarter.
Al Horford added 23 points and 11 rebounds for Boston. Jaylen Brown finished with 16 points.
Cleveland dropped to 13-19 on the road this season and 19-12 against teams above .500. Darius Garland added 29 points and nine assists for the Cavaliers.
Mitchell’s scary moment came with under six minutes left in the third quarter. While driving into the lane, he lost his footing and tumbled awkwardly to the court, leading to a layup on the other end by Tatum.
Mitchell briefly remained on the floor after the Cavs called a timeout, but he was able to walk to the bench. He stayed in the game when play resumed, scoring Cleveland’s next 10 points and 19 in the quarter. But his teammates managed just seven points, while shooting 3 of 11 from the field.
Boston outscored Cleveland 41-26 in the third and saw its three-point halftime advantage grow to 96-78 entering the fourth.
Cleveland closed within 107-94 with less than five minutes to play when Marcus Smart was whistled for a loose ball foul on Mitchell as the two jockeyed for position on a rebound.
Spurred by pleas from Smart and the entire Celtics bench, coach Joe Mazzulla challenged the call. A review showed Mitchell had grabbed Smart’s arm and yanked it in the air, and the call was overturned.
Tatum knocked down a 3 on the ensuing possession.
Cleveland made one last push late, getting consecutive 3s by Garland to get as close as 113-108 in the final minute. Boston was able to close it out at the foul line.
The teams entered Wednesday’s matchup healthy, making for a high energy start. The Cavs were aggressive on both ends, knocking down some early 3s and forcing Boston into some tough shots.
The Celtics had multiple plays in the first half that brought the TD Garden fans to their feet, punctuated by Tatum’s one-handed tip dunk off Mike Muscala’s missed 3-pointer.
That was quickly answered by Cleveland on the other end via a corner 3 by Ricky Rubio, as neither team was able to grab more than a six-point advantage.
The Celtics racked up some quick whistles in the second quarter to put the Cavs in the bonus with more than nine minutes to play before intermission.
But Cleveland went just 4 for 10 from the line for the quarter as Boston took a 55-52 lead into the half.
Cavaliers: Mitchell posted his 23rd 30-point game of the season, tying his career high for 30-point games in a season (2021-22). … Garland had 12 points, six assists and two steals in the first half. ... The Cavs scored 30 points in the paint in the first half.
Celtics: Improved to 15-18 this season against teams above .500. … Went 6 of 7 from the 3-point line in the third quarter. … Marcus Smart had three steals in the first half.
Cavaliers: Host Pistons on Saturday.
Celtics: Host Nets on Friday.
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