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Smart leads Celtics past Cavaliers 99-90

CLEVELAND (AP) — Marcus Smart scored 19 points, and the Boston Celtics maintained their grip on a playoff spot by holding off the short-handed Cleveland Cavaliers 99-90 on Friday night.

The Celtics had five players score in double figures. Isaiah Thomas had 17 points, Avery Bradley scored 15 and Tyler Zeller finished with 13.

Boston and Brooklyn are tied with 37-42 records, but the Celtics own the tiebreaker after winning three of their four meetings. Boston is 21-12 since Feb. 21 when it was a season-high 14 games below .500.

The Cavs played without injured All-Star Kyrie Irving and used their reserves extensively after clinching the No. 2 seed in the East on Wednesday. They had won 18 consecutive home games.

Irving was sidelined by a sore right hip and LeBron James played 26 minutes, one short of his season low. James finished with 14 points and seven assists.

Cleveland’s starters didn’t play in the fourth quarter after the Cavaliers rallied from a 16-point deficit to take the lead briefly in the third.

The teams meet again Sunday in Boston.

Kevin Love led Cleveland with 19 points, and Timofey Mozgov had 13 in 16 1/2 minutes. J.R. Smith, who was averaging 13 points since being acquired in January, played 19 scoreless minutes.

The Celtics led 60-44 early in the third quarter before the Cavaliers went on a 19-6 run. James’ three-point play and 3-pointers by Love, Matthew Dellavedova and Mike Miller forced Boston coach Brad Stevens to call a timeout.

Miller’s two free throws gave Cleveland a 70-69 lead with 2:54 remaining. But Jae Crowder made two foul shots to give Boston a 79-77 lead heading into the fourth.

Cleveland missed eight of its first 10 shots of the game, prompting coach David Blatt to go to his bench in the first quarter. Miller, Shawn Marion and James Jones made early appearances.

Irving, who experienced soreness in the hip at Friday’s shootaround, was scratched about a half-hour before the game. Guard Iman Shumpert also was out with a bruised right quad.

It was Cleveland’s first home loss since Jan. 7 against Houston.

TIP-INS

Celtics: F Evan Turner set a career high with 13 assists. … Bradley is the lone remaining starter from Boston’s first matchup with Cleveland on Nov. 14. F Jared Sullinger and C Kelly Olynyk are now bench players, while G Rajon Rondo and F Jeff Green were traded. … Boston has one remaining road game, its regular-season finale at Milwaukee on Wednesday.

Cavaliers: The Cavaliers are 1-5 when playing without Irving. Dellavedova started at point guard. … F Tristan Thompson scored two points, but grabbed 12 rebounds. … Shumpert injured his leg Wednesday. Blatt said the leg was sore and swollen, but the injury isn’t serious.

NEXT UP

Celtics: Host Cleveland on Sunday.

Cavaliers: At Boston on Sunday.

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