The Celtics put an end to the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 18-game home winning streak with a 99-90 win at Quicken Loans Arena on Friday night. The hosts, locked into the No. 2 seed in the NBA’s Eastern Conference, played without Kyrie Irving (hip) and rested stars LeBron James and Kevin Love for the fourth quarter.
Marcus Smart scored 10 of his team-high 19 points in the first quarter, as the Celtics built a double-digit lead that held up over the game’s final 36 minutes. James and Love enabled the Cavs to trim a 16-point Celtics lead to two points in the closing stages of the third quarter, but the visitors were able to best Cleveland’s reserves in the final frame, limiting them to just 13 points.
Love had a team-high 19 points for the Cavs, while James put up 14 points in 26 minutes. Isaiah Thomas added 17 points off the bench for Boston in a balanced scoring performance by the Celtics that featured five players finishing in double figures.
The win inches the Celtics closer to clinching a playoff berth in the final week of the regular season. Boston remains in a tie with the Brooklyn Nets for the No. 7 seed in the East with three games remaining in the regular season. The Indiana Pacers trail both teams by just one game after defeating the Detroit Pistons on Friday night. The idle Miami Heat are two full games back of Boston/Brooklyn in the No. 10 spot.
Two wins in the team’s final three games would seal a postseason spot for Boston. The Celtics will face the Cavs back in Boston on Sunday afternoon for the second half of the home-and-home series. Cleveland may be without James for the entire contest this time around, as the small forward acknowledged to reporters after the game that he was unsure whether he’ll play in the matinee.