Cavs come back from 22 down, win crucial last-second challenge to stun Celtics and snap 11-game winning streak

By | March 6, 2024

The Cleveland Cavaliers cooled off the torrid Boston Celtics in stunning fashion on Tuesday.

Sparked by backup Dean Wade, the Cavs rallied from a 22-point deficit in the fourth quarter, then reversed a last-second Jayson Tatum error to beat the Celtics 105-104, putting Boston’s 11- game win streak was broken.

The Cavaliers trailed, 93-71 with 9 minutes left, then went on a 34-11 run to end the fourth quarter with a Wade dunk with 19 seconds left. With Boston leading 104-103 in the final 30 seconds of the game, Darius Garland drove to the basket for a contested layup. He missed, but Wade was there for the upset that gave the Cavs the lead and sent the Cleveland crowd into a frenzy.

For a moment, it looked like Tatum was playing a spoiler on the other side. The Celtics All-Star stopped for a fadeaway jump shot in the final seconds of the game. He missed, but the whistle blew with 0.7 seconds left. Officials ruled that Garland fouled Tatum on the shot, which would have put the 82.9% free throw shooter on the line with a chance to win the game.

Garland barely touched Tatum after the ball was released. He then collided with Tatum’s leg as Tatum fell to the ground. The Cavs didn’t like the call and head coach JB Bickerstaff took advantage of his challenge. Garland’s collision with Tatum’s leg proved crucial to the outcome of the match.

After review, the officials determined that no error had been made during the crucial play. Official Zachary Zarba announced that “the leg kick by Tatum’s right leg was deemed to make contact with Garland where otherwise no contact would have occurred. Therefore, the ruling on the floor is reversed.”

The officials didn’t give Tatum an offensive foul, so the Celtics and Cavaliers jumped to center court with 0.7 seconds left. The Celtics won the tip-off, but there was not enough time on the clock to call a timeout. The game was over and the Cavs escaped with a bang on their home court.

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With the win, the Cavaliers improved to 40-21 and moved within a half-game of the second-place Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference standings. The first-place Celtics fell to 48-13 but remain in full control of the conference, 7.5 games ahead of the Bucks. If that was a preview of the second round of the play-offs, we’re in for a thriller.

The Cavs entered Tuesday’s game with injuries to key players. All-Star Donovan Mitchell missed a third straight game with a bone bruise in his left knee. The injury required a platelet-rich plasma injection Monday and the Cavaliers announced he would miss at least three games. Max Strus missed the match with a knee injury.

In the third quarter, forward Evan Mobley went down with an apparent left ankle injury after twisting his ankle during a dunk.

He was able to limp to the locker room, but did not return to the game. His status after Tuesday was not immediately clear.

The Celtics led 69-62 at the time of Mobley’s injury and extended that lead to 87-61 to end the third quarter. A 6-0 run to start the fourth seemingly gave Boston complete control of the game.

Dean Wade took over in the fourth quarter with 20 points, including five three-pointers.  (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Dean Wade took over in the fourth quarter with 20 points, including five three-pointers. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Wade saves Cavs with huge 4th quarter

But Wade had other ideas. The reserve guard, who entered Tuesday averaging 5.1 points per game, scored 20 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Cleveland rally. He hit two three-pointers in three possessions to stop the Celtics run. With 2:35 left in the game, his fifth three-pointer of the quarter gave the Cavs their first lead of the second half at 102-99.

Then came the putback dunk that put the Cavs ahead for good. Ultimately, Wade scored 23 points, eight rebounds and two steals after entering the fourth quarter with three points. He shot 8 of 11 from the field, including 6 of 9 from 3-point range.

He celebrates his achievement with an impressed postgame from Travis Kelce.

Jarrett Allen was Cleveland’s top scoring starter, with 21 points and 12 rebounds.

Tatum led the Celtics with 26 points and 13 rebounds while shooting 5 of 9 from 3-point range. But his late leg kick ensured Boston would not win the game. Kristaps Porzingis returned from a one-game absence on Sunday in the blowout against the Golden State Warriors, scoring 24 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two steals. Jaylen Brown added 21 points.

In the end, Cleveland’s sharp shooting from long range, sparked by Wade, proved to be the difference in the game. The Cavaliers overcame a rebounding 53-42 deficit with a 20-of-42 (47.6%) effort from beyond the arc to secure the win in a potential playoff preview.

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