Blown leads have haunted the Celtics.
Twice last week, they had whopping advantages, only to see their opponent storm back and beat them on their home court.
Those two defeats, plus a blowout loss in Indiana, left the Celtics searching for answers as they entered their holiday break, with no games for six days.
After that time off, the Celtics nearly blew another huge lead during a Saturday matinee against the Cleveland Cavaliers at TD Garden.
The Celtics led by as many as 22 points, but the Cavaliers stormed back, cutting their deficit to 2 with 43.3 seconds left after a pair of free throws by Dion Waiters.
With 19.3 seconds left, Jared Sullinger launched a deep, desperation 3-pointer with the 24-second shot clock about to expire. It was an airball.
But on Cleveland’s next possession, Waiters drove hard to his left, and Brandon Bass was there to swat the shot. The Celtics grabbed the loose ball and, after free throw by Avery Bradley, held on to win, 103-100, to snap their three-game losing streak and improve to 13-17.
The Celtics entered the fourth quarter with an 85-66 lead, but there was an uneasy feeling among fans at the Garden. Their team had been here before, leading by 21 against Detroit Dec. 18 before losing, then leading by 18 against Washington Dec. 21 before losing.
Sure enough, the Celtics again let an opponent rally, and though the Cavaliers were without center Andrew Bynum, who, it was announced earlier in the day, was suspended indefinitely for conduct detrimental to the team, they still had All-Star guard Kyrie Irving.
Irving scored 12 of his game-high 32 points in the fourth quarter, and the Cavaliers outscored the Celtics, 34-18, in the final 12 minutes to turn a potential blowout into a thriller. Irving also became the first opposing player to score 30 or more points against the Celtics this season.
And even without Bynum, the Cavaliers outscored the Celtics in the paint, 40-28.
The Celtics were balanced on offense, with six players scoring in double figures. Jeff Green and Jordan Crawford each scored 19 points and Bradley added 18.