NBA: Cavs sink Celtics in overtime, Sixers roll on

Cleveland Cavaliers forward Lamar Stevens (right) and Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, on March 6. PHOTO: REUTERS

CLEVELAND Donovan Mitchell poured in 40 points on Monday night as the Cleveland Cavaliers sent the Boston Celtics spinning to a third straight National Basketball Association (NBA) defeat in a heavyweight clash of the Eastern Conference rivals, but teammate Lamar Stevens stole the show.

After being left on the bench throughout three quarters of the game that the Cavaliers won 118-114 in overtime, the forward started the fourth.

He racked up eight points, an assist and eight rebounds that included six big offensive boards.

“There is no way we win that game without Lamar,” said Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff, as quoted by Yahoo Sports.

“He changed the tone, the physicality, the effort.

“When we have our conversations with guys, we talk to them about who we need them to be – and Lamar is a dog.

“He is willing to scrap, he’s willing to fight, he’s not afraid of the moment.

“He hit the big three, then he drives down the lane with the physical finish, and every time we needed an extra possession he went and got it.

“I can’t say enough of how proud I am of him, and how deserving he is of a ton of credit for us winning this game tonight.”

A depleted Boston missing stars Jayson Tatum, Al Horford and Robert Williams III went into Monday’s game in Cleveland desperate for victory after consecutive defeats by the Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks.

But their hopes of snapping out of their mini-slump ran into a red-hot performance from Mitchell.

Mitchell nervelessly drained two free throws with 5.8 seconds on the clock in the fourth to tie the game at 109-109.

Boston, however, had a golden chance to win it at the death. They swept up the court and won two free throws after Stevens fouled Grant Williams at the basket.

Williams, though, fluffed both of his free throws, allowing Cleveland to take the game into overtime and pull away for the victory.

Mitchell could be seen exchanging words with Williams before the Boston player prepared to take his free throws.

The Cleveland star later admitted that he was “trying to mess with him mentally”. “I wanted to find a way to get in his head a little bit,” he said.

It completed a battling fightback by the Cavs, who had trailed by 15 points in the third quarter.

They staged a fourth-quarter rally to haul themselves into contention, outscoring Boston 31-17 in the final frame.

Jaylen Brown led Boston’s scorers with 32 points, while Malcolm Brogdon added 24 off the bench.

The Celtics fell to 45-21 after the defeat and remain second in the Eastern Conference, adrift of leaders Milwaukee, who are on 46-18.

Cleveland improved to 41-26 and are fourth in the table.

In the battle for third, Joel Embiid produced another towering performance to lead the Philadelphia 76ers to a 147-143 road win against the Indiana Pacers.

Embiid, who scored 31 points in last Saturday’s pulsating victory over Milwaukee, finished with 42 points as the Sixers improved to 42-22 to remain just behind the Bucks and Celtics.

A see-saw game saw the lead change hands no fewer than 32 times as the two teams went toe-to-toe throughout.

Separately, ESPN reported that the NBA is rescinding the triple-double that Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo secured in the waning seconds of Sunday’s win over the Washington Wizards.

Antetokounmpo collected a defensive rebound, his ninth overall, with 10 seconds remaining in Milwaukee’s 117-111 victory.

He then dribbled the length of the floor, ostensibly to run out the clock. But he then threw a soft toss to himself off the backboard, seemingly collecting his 10th rebound and fourth triple-double of the season.

The league decided on Monday that it would not be counted as a player has to shoot “with intent to score a field goal”.

In Denver, the Western Conference-leading Nuggets left it late before finally edging past the Toronto Raptors 118-113. AFP, REUTERS

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