CLEVELAND (AP) — Jayson Tatum scored 25 points, Gordon Hayward added 18 and the Boston Celtics beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 103-96 on Tuesday night for their fifth straight victory despite missing All-Star guard Kyrie Irving.
A strained left hip prevented Irving from facing his former team, but the Celtics made up for his absence by getting 17 points from Marcus Smart and 13 from Jaylen Brown to hold off the scrappy Cavs.
Rookie Collin Sexton scored 27 — but none in the fourth quarter — for the Cavs, who dropped to 3-20 since Dec. 19. Alec Burks, who has been linked to recent trade talks, added 21 for Cleveland. Larry Nance Jr. had 11 points and 12 rebounds.
The struggling Cavs were still within 94-91 when Smart hit a pull-up jumper, and after a miss by Sexton, dropped a 3-pointer. Burks had a monster dunk and 3 to make it 101-96, but Tatum blocked a shot by Ante Zizic underneath and Tatum closed it out by making a pair of free throws with 1:35 remaining.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Irving, who is averaging a team-high 23.8 points per game, may return on Thursday when Boston hosts LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers, hours after the NBA’s trade deadline.
“I would hope he would be able to go, but I don’t know for sure,” Stevens said. “We’ll know more tomorrow.”
Boston was also missing starting forward Marcus Morris (sore right knee) and reserve center Aron Baynes (bruised foot).
Without Irving and Morris, the Celtics needed someone to pick up the scoring slack and make plays down the stretch, and Tatum came through at both ends.
Sexton came out in attack mode, scoring 18 points in the first half on 8-of-13 shooting. Sexton and Nance knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers to help the Cavs open a 36-30 lead.
But the Celtics reeled off 10 straight points and Al Horford and Rozier each hit 3s in the final 33 seconds of the second quarter to put Boston ahead 59-51 at halftime.
Tatum went 12 of 12 from the free-throw line and Boston didn’t miss any of its 14 attempts.
Celtics: Irving has missed three of Boston’s four visits since the Cavs traded him. … Stevens said Baynes will be out through the All-Star break. He said Morris’ injury is not a “long-term” thing and it’s possible he’ll play Thursday. … C/F Robert Williams joined Boston’s list of walking wounded. He sat out with a sore lower back. … The rash of injuries forced Boston to dip into its G-League team in Maine as the club called up G P.J. Dozier. … F Daniel Theis was called for a rare, punching-the-ball violation while going after an offensive rebound in the fourth quarter.
Cavaliers: F Cedi Osman missed his first game since rolling his right ankle on Saturday against Dallas. Osman averages 12.6 points. … Gs Nik Stauskas and Wade Baldwin have joined the Cavs but are not ready to play. They were acquired on Monday from Portland in the trade for F Rodney Hood. … Had won their previous four at home against Boston.
Celtics: Host the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday.
Cavaliers: At Washington on Friday.