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Celtics hold on, earn split with Cavs

Feb 1, 2012 - 4:53 AM Cleveland, OH (Sports Network) - Paul Pierce scored 20 points and the Celtics narrowly earned a home-and-home split with a 93-90 win over the Cavaliers on Tuesday.

The Celtics squandered a double-digit fourth quarter lead at TD Garden on Sunday, falling to Cleveland, 88-87, on Kyrie Irving's layup with 2.6 seconds remaining.

On Tuesday, they nearly gave up a 22-point lead, as the Cavs pulled within two before Kevin Garnett rattled home a fadeaway jumper with a minute left. Garnett and Brandon Bass both finished with 13 points for Boston, which has won five of its last six.

"I thought in Boston we didn't handle their pressure really well," said Garnett. "I thought tonight we responded with buckets and execution."

Anderson Varejao had 20 points and 20 rebounds -- 10 offensive -- but missed a pair of shots in the final minute. Irving had 21 points, including an inconsequential three-pointer as time expired.

"They played so hard tonight, it was great to see," Cavs coach Byron Scott said of his team. "We just have to continue to play that hard."

Bent on revenge, the Celtics dominated early. They led 51-39 at the half and extended the advantage to 22 late in the third on a trey by Ray Allen, who scored all 12 of his points in the quarter.

The Cavs, though, proved resilient, scoring the first six points of the fourth before pulling within 10 on Irving's runner with under eight minutes to play. Later, Pierce pushed the margin to 11 with a layup, but Irving and Antawn Jamison answered with consecutive baskets to make it 84-77.

Jamison's floater with under three minutes to go made it a five-point game before Pierce hit 1-of-2 from the charity stripe. Irving missed a jumper on the Cavs' next possession, but Ramon Sessions corralled the offensive board and found Alonzo Gee, who knocked down an 18-footer. After Allen was called for an offensive foul, Irving finished a contested lefty layup, pulling the Cavs within two.

They would get no closer. Garnett's fadeaway jumper made it 91-87 and Varejao was blocked on the other end by Jermaine O'Neal. Cleveland maintained possession, but with the shot clock dwindling, Varejao forced a three-pointer, which rimmed out. Irving had a look with six second left after an Allen miss, but was off on a 21-footer. Pierce then hit a pair from the stripe to seal the win.

Game Notes

Boston point guard Rajon Rondo missed his seventh straight game due to a wrist injury. O'Neal returned from a three-game absence, which was caused by a balky left knee...On Sunday, the Cavs scored the final 12 points of the game to claim the comeback victory.