LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love did not suit up for the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday afternoon, and their teammates stood little chance against a motivated Celtics squad. Isaiah Thomas scored a game-high 17 points off the bench for Boston, helping the hosts cruise to a 117-78 win over the shorthanded Cavs and take one more step towards a postseason berth.
The victory reduces Boston’s magic number to just one to secure a spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs. One win in Boston’s final two games or a loss by the Pacers or Nets in either of their last two games would seal a ticket to the postseason for Brad Stevens and company. Indiana defeated Oklahoma City at home on Sunday evening.
In the meantime, Boston took care of business on its own end against Cleveland’s junior varsity squad. After a tight first quarter, the Celtics outscored Cleveland by a staggering 34-9 margin in the second, turning the game’s final 36 minutes into a rout. Cleveland shot just 2-of-16 from the field during the frame, while the Celtics shot 63 percent.
Like Friday night, the game was meaningless for the Cavs from a standings perspective, and it was easy to tell given the varying effort by the two teams. The Cavs turned the ball over a whopping 25 times, in large part due to 20 steals from a stingy Celtics defense. Those 20 steals were just one shy of a franchise record.
On the flip side, Cleveland had just one takeaway and only forced nine turnovers in the lackluster performance.
Evan Turner added 15 points, seven rebounds and five assists for a well-balanced Celtics offense that finished with seven players in double figures.
The win puts Boston all alone in seventh place in the East for the time being, one game ahead of the Brooklyn Nets who lost to the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday afternoon.