You can now read 10 articles a month for free. Read as much as you want anywhere and anytime for just 99¢.

Celtics 103, Cavaliers 100

Celtics hold on to beat Cavaliers

The Celtics’ Brandon Bass blocked the Cavaliers’ Dion Waiters with less than 10 seconds left in the game.

Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff

The Celtics’ Brandon Bass blocked the Cavaliers’ Dion Waiters with less than 10 seconds left in the game.

It might catch on, in this age of Big Viral. All it would take is a slew of retweets, then the hashtag that Brad Stevens created Saturday would spread like fire, perhaps even trending worldwide.

#EveryGameIsAnAdventure

Continue reading below

But you can bet that it will start to make the rounds if the Celtics find themselves in more heart-stoppers this season, such as their 103-100 down-to-the-wire matinee win against Cleveland at TD Garden.

Of course, anything viral began somewhere, and that phrase started with Stevens, who jokingly used it after his team held on after nearly blowing a huge lead, as it had twice last week in spectacular fashion.

“You know, I was telling [Celtics president] Rich Gotham, it should’ve been promoted as part of our holiday package — ‘Every game is an adventure,’ ” the coach said of the team’s last three home games.

“You know, ‘Green runs deep, #EveryGameIsAnAdventure.’ That would be a great thing to promote.”

Then Stevens turned to a team employee and joked, “Maybe we can work on that . . . get that on the team website?”

Laughter filled the postgame news conference, but Stevens, like any coach, is always more cheerful after a win than a loss, and he has suffered his share recently.

The Celtics blew a 21-point lead against Detroit Dec. 18 and lost. They blew an 18-point lead against Washington Dec. 21 and lost.

Then came Saturday, when they saw their 22-point lead shrink to 2 with 43.3 seconds left after Cleveland guard Dion Waiters made a pair of free throws.

On the Celtics’ next possession, Jared Sullinger airballed a 3-pointer with the 24-second shot clock about to expire, giving Cleveland a chance to tie.

The ball again went to Waiters, who drove hard to his left, but Celtics forward Brandon Bass was on his hip, and Bass swatted his last-second shot.

The Celtics (13-17) grabbed the loose ball and held on, helping soothe fans who had grown uneasy as Boston’s lead shriveled to almost nothing.

As Stevens said, three of the Celtics’ last four games have been “adventures,” save for a blowout loss in Indiana six days ago that sent them into the holiday break on a three-game losing skid.

Coming off that humbling defeat to the Pacers, the Celtics hoped to refocus, but instead they found themselves right where they were before the break: hanging on for dear life.

“Sometimes you get on your heels, and we’ve got to figure out a way not to be on our heels,” Stevens said. “And I think sometimes when you win a game like this that helps you the next time. Obviously there’s that tension of, ‘Oh no, don’t lose,’ and that’s no way to live life. It’s no way to play. But it’s a factor.”

In the locker room, the Celtics brushed off talk that there was any panic, or at least the idea that the lead they had built was going to fall apart as it had before.

“I don’t think we get concerned about it,” said Sullinger, who struggled with 8 points on 14 shots. “We’re kind of cool, calm, collected. Everybody is going to make their run in this league, we just have to learn how to keep a lead.”

The Celtics entered the fourth quarter with an 85-66 advantage, but there was an uneasy feeling among fans at the Garden, who had seen this one before.

Sure enough, the Cavaliers (10-19) rallied, even if they were without center Andrew Bynum, who, it was announced earlier in the day, was suspended indefinitely for conduct detrimental to the team.

After all, they still had All-Star guard Kyrie Irving.

Irving scored 12 of his game-high 32 points in the fourth quarter, and the Cavaliers outscored the Celtics, 34-18, in the final 12 minutes to turn a potential blowout into a thriller. Irving also became the first opposing player to score 30 or more points against the Celtics this season.

Waiters had 17 off the bench, and even without Bynum, the Cavaliers outscored the Celtics in the paint, 40-28.

The Celtics were balanced on offense, with six players scoring in double figures. Jeff Green and Jordan Crawford each scored 19 points and Avery Bradley added 18 — along with a reason that the Celtics let leads slip away.

“We relax,” Bradley said. “Jordan says it all the time, ‘Let’s keep the pedal down, and continue to increase our lead.’ And we always come out and make dumb passes and we show how young we are as a team. To be a great team in this league, you have to get rid of those plays.”

Stevens said it can be tough to balance the idea of playing with extreme maturity while still playing somewhat free and loose with a clear mind. The Celtics didn’t do both Saturday.

“I just don’t think we played purposefully when it mattered,” Stevens said.

Which means for most of the fourth quarter, until the very end.

“I thought we did a really good job and played exceptionally well in the fourth quarter for 18.3 seconds,” he said.

It was the other 11 minutes and 41.7 seconds that the Celtics looked less than great, though Stevens said he’s not worried that his team will earn a reputation as one that chokes on its own leads.

“Again, we’ve made the last couple weeks an adventure, and we haven’t played the right way the whole game,” he said. “And whether that’s in the first half or the fourth quarter, we have to become a better team for 48 minutes. Three times we’ve not played well in the second half, but once [against Indiana] we didn’t play well the whole game.

“So we’ve got a lot of minutes we’ve got to get better at.”

As he left the podium following his postgame news conference, Stevens, still seeming relieved at the win, turned to a reporter and joked, “We’re a heck of a movie.”

Perhaps they can get that on the website, too.

Baxter Holmes can be reached at baxter.holmes@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @BaxterHolmes.
Loading comments...

You have reached the limit of 10 free articles in a month

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week