for this game

Late surge helps Cavs squeak past Celtics

Jan 30, 2012 - 3:23 AM Boston, MA (Sports Network) - Rookie Kyrie Irving's layup with 2.6 seconds remaining lifted the Cleveland Cavaliers over the Boston Celtics, 88-87, in the opener of a home-and-home set.

Trailing 87-76 with under 4 1/2 minutes to play, the Cavaliers scored the final 12 points of the game to claim victory.

Irving ended with 23 points and six assists for Cleveland, which has won two of three. Anderson Varejao tallied 18 points and nine rebounds.

Ray Allen had 22 points for the Celtics, who had a four-game winning streak snapped. Allen had missed the last three games with a jammed left ankle.

Paul Pierce donated 18 points, six boards and five assists for Boston, which will head to Cleveland on Tuesday. Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass added 14 and 13 points, respectively.

"Like I said, the defense just didn't step up," Pierce said. "We allowed more points in the fourth quarter than we did all game, and the turnovers really came to bite us. I turned the ball over too much today. Turnovers really came back to bite us today."

The score was 87-76 after Bass made 1-of-2 free throws with 4:25 remaining. Irving got Cleveland's late surge going with a jumper and two free throws. Varejao added a pair of layups to make it an 87-84 game with 1:38 to go.

After Pierce missed a layup, Alonzo Gee made two foul shots to make it a one- point contest with 1:04 left.

Garnett came down with a big offensive rebound off Allen's missed 21-foot jumper, but Garnett was called for traveling.

Varejao played a key part on Cleveland's ensuing possession. Varejao pulled down Irving's missed layup and passed off to Antawn Jamison, who was off the mark with a three-pointer. Bass pulled down the defensive rebound before Varejao swiped the ball from him and called a timeout.

Irving let the clock run down before making his way to the hoop. The Duke product made a nice spin move in the lane and put home a layup, giving the visitors an 88-87 edge with 2.6 seconds to go.

Pierce failed to get a shot off as time expired.

"We just came with a lot of energy, coming out of that last timeout. We knew that if we got a couple stops we'd be in the game," Irving said. "They're a great team. We give a lot of credit to them and we just wanted to come out aggressive; especially when we needed that comeback. We were down 11 points, it was a tough come-back, but we carried it out and I'm really proud of my teammates."

A tight first quarter featured three lead changes and six ties. Pierce's three-pointer with 38.5 seconds left gave Boston a 24-23 edge.

The second period proved to be even closer, with 10 lead changes and six ties. Varejao's jumper with 25.3 seconds to go gave Cleveland a 44-43 lead at the break.

Down by two, 55-53, with 8:03 left in the third stanza, Boston put together a 16-3 run. Pierce and Allen each tallied six points during the surge, which the former capped with a jumper for a 69-58 edge with 2:12 to go.

The Celtics shot 64.3 percent from the field in the period to take a 70-62 margin into the fourth.

Mychel Thompson's jumper and Gee's slam got the Cavaliers within three, 74-71, with 8:54 to play.

But Boston scored the next eight points to build an 82-71 margin with 6:10 left.

Game Notes

Cleveland lost two of three to the Celtics last season...Boston was without Rajon Rondo and Jermaine O'Neal. Rondo sat out his sixth consecutive game due to a wrist injury, while O'Neal sat for a third straight time with a balky left knee...The Celtics shot 52.2 percent from the field...Cleveland had 54 points in the paint, compared to 32 for Boston...Gee had 14 points and six rebounds.