No Irving, but Rozier leads Celtics past Cavaliers
Terry Rozier, starting in place of the injured Kyrie Irving, scored 22 of his 26 points in the first half to spark the Boston Celtics to a 125-103 win over the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers. Irving sat out with flulike symptoms but was hardly missed. Rozier, who played high school basketball in Cleveland, was perfect in the first two periods, going 8-for-8, including connecting on a buzzer-beater from 31 feet to give Boston a 65-50 lead at halftime.
Rozier also finished with eight rebounds and six assists. Jaylen Brown added 23 points, and Jayson Tatum notched 17 points and three steals. Boston has won 10 straight at home and five straight overall while Cleveland, the NBA's worst team with just nine wins in 49 games, lost its fifth straight.
The Celtics trailed 30-27 entering the second period, despite Rozier scoring 16 first-quarter points. But Boston's defense came alive, recording seven steals in the second and holding the Cavs to just 20 points. Brad Wannamaker came off the bench to give the Celtics' offense a lift with eight points and two assists in the period.
Marcus Smart's 23-foot 3-pointer at the 6:35 mark gave Boston a 41-39 lead. Boston scored the next seven points and never was threatened the rest of the way. After hitting his first eight shots, Rozier missed back-to-back shots early in the third, but Boston still was able to expand its lead to 19 at 74-55 with Tatum driving hard to the basket for a layup, and then stealing the ball and taking it all the way for an uncontested layup.
Cleveland cut the deficit to 12 with a Jordan Clarkson layup at the end of the third period, but Boston scored the first seven points of the fourth to build the lead back to 19 at 99-80. Boston was also without Al Horford, who was given the night off to rest. Horford missed seven games in December because of a sore left knee.
Ante Zizic, the former Celtic, got the start for Cleveland, who played without big men Tristan Thompson and Larry Nance Jr. Zizic scored 19 points and had eight rebounds. Cedi Osman led Cleveland with 25 points, while Collin Sexton had 16 points, Clarkson added 14 and Alec Burks chipped in 10 points and nine rebounds.
--Field Level Media