BOSTON — This time, the Boston Celtics held on.
“We’ve made the last couple of weeks an adventure,” rookie coach Brad Stevens said of his team’s latest second-half breakdown, blowing most of a 22-point third-quarter lead and hanging on for a 103-100 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday.
“We haven’t played the right way the whole game, whether that’s in the first half or the fourth quarter,” Stevens said. “We have to become a better team for 48 minutes. Three times we’ve not played well in the second half and once we didn’t play well the whole game, so we’ve got a lot of minutes we’ve got to get better at.”
Forward Brandon Bass blocked Cleveland guard Dion Waiters’ potential game-tying drive to the basket in the closing seconds, allowing the Celtics (13-17) to end their two-game losing streak.
“I don’t think we really get concerned about it,” forward/center Jared Sullinger said. “We are kind of cool, calm, and collected. Everybody is going to make their run in this league, we just have to learn how to keep a lead.”
Said Stevens: “I was telling (Celtics president) Rich Gotham, it should have been promoted as part of our holiday package: ‘Every game is an adventure.’ That would have been ‘Green Runs Deep, #everygamesamadventure.’ That would have been a great thing to promote.”
The loss, Cleveland’s fourth straight and sixth in the last seven games, came in the Cavaliers’ first game after handing center Andrew Bynum an indefinite suspension for “conduct detrimental to the team.”
Guard Jordan Crawford and forward Jeff Green led the Celtics with 19 points each, Crawford adding five rebounds and five assists and Green eight boards.
Guard Avery Bradley, who went 1-for-2 at the line to close the scoring with 1.4 seconds left, delivered 18 points and eight rebounds and Bass had 15 points, six rebounds and a career high-matching four assists.
The Cavaliers called timeout after Bradley’s free throw, but forward Earl Clark’s attempted 3-pointer was too late and well short, anyway.
Guard Kyrie Irving led all scorers with 32 points (21 in the second half), while Waiters came off the bench to score 17 points for the Cavaliers.
“We can’t keep starting out games the way we’re starting out,” Irving said.
The Celtics led by 22 points three minutes into the third quarter and by 19 at the end of three.
But the Cavaliers opened the finale on a 22-9 run to cut the deficit to six. After four straight Boston free throws, guard Jarrett Jack hit two straight 3-pointers and it was 98-94 with 2:38 remaining.
It got down to two with 43.3 seconds left, after Bass had given his team a six-point lead on two free throws after an offensive rebound with 1:30 left.
Crawford hit Boston’s last basket, with 2:08 left.
“They did a heck of a job from the beginning of the game; and the thing that I express to our guys is we can’t be as inconsistent as we are throughout the course of games,” Cleveland coach Mike Brown said.
Before the game, Brown was vague on Bynum, who might be trying to force a trade. Brown pointed out the suspension is “indefinite.”
Irving, the best player on this team, said: “It’s just a terrible situation internally with our team. It’s just something we have to get over.
“We need him out there. He’s a dominant force for our team. It’s hard. You lose a teammate, but with this situation it gives everyone else a chance to step up. That’s kind of how we look at it.
“He’s going to be missed, but we’ve still got to win games. That’s what it’s all about.”
Bynum, who missed last season because of a knee injury after being traded from the Los Angeles Lakers to the Philadelphia 76ers, was averaging 8.4 points and 5.3 rebounds per game for the Cavaliers.
“It changes a lot (with him gone),” Bradley said after the game. “Obviously, he is a very good player. Obviously, he has an inside presence.”
NOTES: C Anderson Varajao replaced Andrew Bynum in the Cleveland starting lineup after Bynum was suspended indefinitely for “conduct detrimental to the team,” which probably means the end of his brief stay in Cleveland. Reports were already circulating Bynum is trying to force a trade to the Miami Heat or Los Angeles Clippers. His contract would be favorable for a deal. … Boston F Brandon Bass hit a 3-pointer in the third quarter, his second career trey (both this season) on his 18th try. … Celtics F Gerald Wallace missed the second half after taking a shot to the nose. … The Cavaliers return home and host the Golden State Warriors on Sunday, while the Celtics host the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday, Boston’s third straight home matinee.