Paul Pierce totaled 27 points and nine rebounds as the Celtics edged the league-worst Cavaliers, 104-95, to snap a season-high six-game losing streak.
Eric Williams scored 17 points and rookie J.R. Bremer added 10 of his 14 in the fourth quarter for Boston, which beat Cleveland for the 10th straight time at home and ninth in a row overall. The teams meet at Gund Arena on Saturday.
“We just need to start our winning streak,” Bremer said. “Getting off that six-game slide is important, but we got to get something going.”
Boston was clinging to an 84-82 lead before Bremer nailed a shot from the arc with 8:16 left to begin an 8-0 run. He had another 3-pointer, and Pierce capped the burst with a free throw with 5:36 remaining. Cleveland got no closer than four points thereafter.
“We didn’t get down regardless of how they were playing. You know how they were shooting,” Pierce said. “When they make their little run, we just try and answer. The last few games, it seems like when teams make runs, it took our energy out. So we stuck with it for the whole game.”
Ricky Davis collected 31 points, 10 assists and six rebounds and Jumaine Jones scored 21 points for the Cavs, who lost their 17th straight road contest. They are an abysmal 3-34 away from Gund Arena, the league’s second-worst road mark behind Chicago’s 3-35.
“Ricky played pretty well,” Cleveland coach Keith Smart said. “Ricky played under control. He got out of control a little bit, but for the most part he’s doing what we want him to do - just let your teammates play with you, pass the basketball.”
Cleveland narrowly outshot Boston from the field but made only 12-of-16 free throws to 32-of-47 for the Celtics.
The Celtics scored 23 points off 21 Cavs turnovers, while Cleveland had just nine off 13 Boston giveaways.
“I thought the difference in the game was the plus-8 turnover differential, which we had as one of our game goals. We talked a lot about it before the game,” Celtics coach Jim O’Brien said. “And then the difference in the foul shooting. I thought we were aggressive driving the ball and posting. And as a result we shot 47 fouls to their 16. I thought those two statistics were the key to this win.”
“Turnovers have been hurting us the whole season,” Davis said. “You got young guys handling the ball up there. We make our mistakes, so we just have to live it and learn, come out next game and try to handle the ball.”
All five Boston starters reached double figures in a regular-season contest for the first time since March 6, 2002 against Orlando. With the win, the Celtics moved into a sixth-place tie with the idle Magic in the Eastern Conference standings.
“It was a definitely a team effort,” Pierce said. “But it has to come from me or Antoine (Walker). We can’t stand off and let everybody cover guys and expect a lot from everybody. It starts with us.”
Walker scored just 13 points on 4-of-12 shooting but nailed a key 3-pointer that gave Boston a 99-92 lead with 43 seconds left.
“Walker and Pierce did their regular thing,” Smart said. “Paul really set the tone tonight and early made some shots. And Walker made the big shot. He didn’t make them early, but made them when they really, really counted.”
The Celtics jumped out to a 37-25 lead after one quarter behind 16 points from Pierce and were up by as many as 43-27 in the second period before Cleveland got within 50-47 at the break.
After Cleveland tied the game, 75-75, on a hook shot by Chris Mihm that opened the scoring in the fourth quarter, Boston took the lead for good on a layup by Williams with 11:31 to play.
“This showed we can be in any ballgame, if we put our heads into it, and come out and play,” Davis said. “We just couldn’t close their lead off and finish it.”