CLEVELAND - By all rights, the Boston Celtics should have been blown out of the water.
But they refused to go belly-up.
Forward Jeff Green's driving layup at the buzzer capped a 21-6 run to close the game in the Celtics' 93-92 win over the Cavaliers on Wednesday before 17,130 at Quicken Loans Arena.
"It's a tough way to lose," Cavs coach Byron Scott said.
Center Marreese Speights' 5-foot bank shot extended the Cavs' lead to 86-72 with 8:08 to play. Yet, they still found a way to cough up the 14-point lead.
In the last 5:49, they made 1-of-9 field goals and committed three turnovers.
Cavs guard Shaun Livingston missed a 10-foot jumper in the lane with 10.9 seconds left with his team clinging to a 92-91 advantage.
On the game's last possession, Cavs forward Alonzo Gee knocked the ball out of Celtics forward Paul Pierce's hands and out of bounds with 2.1 seconds left.
It was abundantly clear that the ball went off Gee's hand, but the officials wanted to review it.
"It was very clear," Scott said. "It gave them another time out."
The Celtics (37-34) were out of time outs at the time, but were able to huddle and set up Green's heroics.
"We wanted to switch everything," Scott said. "Luke (Walton) got a little too far down the floor. Wayne (Ellington) ended up having his back turned when J.T. (Jason Terry) set the screen on Luke.
"That gave Jeff Green a great angle to the basket. We didn't switch it like we wanted to. We have to be a little bit more aggressive in that instance."
With Walton picked, and Ellington wandering in no-man's land, Green attacked the basket.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers wanted the Cavs (22-48) to think the last play was going to their leading scorer, Paul Pierce.
"It was a misdirection (play)," Rivers said. "We wanted to make the action look like it was for Paul. The whole time, it was for Jeff to pop off a (Terry) screen."
Once again, the Cavs blew a large lead, as the losses keep piling up on this disastrous season.
"We stopped being aggressive," Scott said. "We were playing not to lose. You can't be timid."
Scott is fuming about the communication breakdowns on the defensive end.
"We did a poor job of switching," Scott said. "Talking on defense is not the hardest thing in the world. The good teams do. We just don't do it on a consistent basis. You can blame it on youth and inexperience."
Before Livingston's last shot in the waning seconds, the Cavs had three time outs remaining. Scott never considered using one of them and setting up the possible game-winning play.
"I knew what they were going to do," Scott said. "They were switching everything. He got it right into the paint, about a 10-footer. He just missed it."
The Cavs were playing without their top two offensive threats in Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters. Without them, there really is no go-to guy.
Forward Brandon Bass had a game-high 22 points and five rebounds for the Celtics. They were missing four rotational players: Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo, Jared Sullinger and Courtney Lee.
Green finished with 21 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
Pierce, who had a season-high 40 points on his last trip to Cleveland on Dec. 19, ended with 19 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists, seven turnovers and two blocks.
He said Green's performance was much-needed.
"It's huge for us," Pierce said. "Now, we have another guy that's gaining confidence at the end of games and knows that he can get it done."
Ellington paced the Cavs with 16 points, nine in the third quarter. C.J. Miles and Marreese Speights each added 13.
Livingston had a good floor game with 12 points, three rebounds and five assists for the Cavs, while Gee had 12 points and five rebounds.
"They turned up the pressure defensively and we just got a little stagnant," Ellington said. "We stopped doing what was working for us. We kind of started holding the ball a little bit and we weren't moving around, so they made a run at us."
NOTES: Rivers unveiled a new starting lineup against the Cavs. Chris Wilcox started at center in place of the injured Kevin Garnett. Rivers decided to go with his new lineup, which included Bass at power forward, Green at small forward and Pierce at shooting guard. He went with a tall lineup because of the Cavs' size. ... Celtics power forward Jared Sullinger is out for the season after having back surgery on Feb. 2 to repair a lumbar disk. But he still remains very high in the Celtics' plans. The 6-foot-9, 260-pounder, the No. 21 overall selection in the 2012 NBA draft out of Ohio State, is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall. "We just felt that No. 1, there was nobody better than him at that point," Rivers said. "If he had come out the year before, he would have been in the top five." Rivers said the Celtics team doctor told them that Sullinger needed surgery on his back at some point. That's one of the reasons he's lasted so long in the draft. "(The surgery is) not career-threatening," Rivers said. "It's just surgery. We were hoping it would happen in the summertime, to be honest. He'll be fine next year. He probably won't play in summer league." Sullinger averaged 6.0 points and 5.9 rebounds in 45 games this season. ... Rivers said it's difficult for a team like the Cavs, who don't have much to play for. Rivers said some players are playing for numbers, others for new contracts. "It's a very difficult task," he said. ... Scott turns 52 years old on Thursday. ... Since Jan. 22, Walton leads all Eastern Conference bench players in assists at 4.6 per game. ... Cavs center Tyler Zeller has recorded six double-doubles this season - second among East rookies and fourth overall. Zeller has two double-doubles in his last five games.