The Cavaliers battled with a Kyrie Irving-less Celtics team all night, and Collin Sexton had a monster outing, but ultimately they couldn’t take control and the Celtics earned a 103-96 victory in the first game since Rodney Hood was dealt to Portland.
The Cavaliers new additions in Wade Baldwin and Nik Stauskas didn’t suit up, and Cedi Osman missed the action with an ankle tweak, but Sexton was the story of the game for the Cavaliers. He had 18 in the first half and 27 overall, starting the game 11-19 from the field before going 0-5 in the fourth quarter. Sexton finished two points away from matching his previous career high.
Jayson Tatum led the Celtics with 25 points bolstered by 12-12 shooting from the free throw line, and Marcus Smart continued his offensive breakout season with a 17 points outing alongside 4-5 from distance.
Alec Burks may have played his last game as a Cavalier, with the trade deadline just two days away, but he played one of his best games as a member of the team, dropping 21 points and throwing down a highlight dunk to keep the Cavaliers in the game late.
The Cavaliers have played particularly spirited basketball in their last four games, with two wins and two fairly competitive losses. Kevin Love could return by the All-Star break, and Tristan Thompson should be back soon. David Nwaba’s tendency to make winning plays is already making an impact.
Even if Burks is shipped out, the Cavaliers could be getting much more watchable in the near future. Games like this are something they can build on, even in a loss.
The Cavaliers next play on Friday at Washington. Tipoff is at 7 p.m.