In the second quarter Saturday, Celtics coach Brad Stevens went to an unusual lineup, using starting forward Jared Sullinger on the second unit.
Sullinger is often on the bench for at least some of that stretch while the backups check in to do some damage. But in his team’s 103-100 win against Cleveland, Stevens decided to try something different.
“That’s just an attempt to get more scoring in certain lineups, a little more balance, so that we can continue with that,” Stevens said. “And that may have thrown off his rhythm a little bit, but he’ll get used to it.”
Sullinger indeed struggled, finishing with 8 points on 4-for-14 shooting in 31 minutes. It was the seventh time in the last 29 games that he didn’t score in double figures. He also grabbed just three rebounds.
“I was fine,” Sullinger said. “You know, everyone has one of those games where they are just a half a step off, but I got to bounce back.”
Sullinger also said he felt fine with the second unit, which included Gerald Wallace, Phil Pressey, Courtney Lee, and Kelly Olynyk.
“Regardless of whatever unit it is, we’re just playing hard and we’re plugging away,” Sullinger said. “We share the ball like a team and we just play hard. That’s what the second unit does, that’s what any unit does.”
Sullinger might have struggled, but as a whole, the second unit didn’t, as the Celtics outscored the Cavaliers, 35-22, in the second quarter, shooting a sizzling 65 percent from the floor.
With the 24-second shot clock winding down, Brandon Bass made his second career 3-pointer with 10:17 left in the third quarter to give the Celtics a 20-point lead.
“Man, I didn’t even think about that shot, I just let that thing go,” he said. “It felt like a mid-range shot. Basketball gods were with me.”
His only other 3-point make came last month, when the Celtics beat the Cavaliers, 103-86, at TD Garden.
“I don’t know, there’s just something about Cleveland,” Bass said after finishing with 15 points. “They like to see me shoot threes, so I was able to hit one.”
Bass is 2 for 3 from long distance on the season after having been 0 for 15 for his career coming into this season.
“It is weird for him to shoot it, because you don’t see the hitch in that shot that he has on his mid-range [shot], which is kind of weird,” Jeff Green said. “But I’m glad it went in.”
Bass joked of his shot, “That was huge, man. Speaks volumes of my shooting.”
Walk on wild side
Guard Jordan Crawford had a wild turnover during the pivotal fourth quarter when the Cavaliers were starting to storm back from a double-digit deficit.
The Celtics were leading, 98-88, with less than four minutes to go. After coming up with a steal of a bad pass by Cleveland center Anderson Varejao, Crawford started to bring the ball up the court on the left side, looking for an easy transition bucket.
Crawford cut toward the middle with Avery Bradley on the left side, and then threw an around-the-back, no-look pass that went . . . out of bounds.
There was clear miscommunication on the play between Crawford and Bradley. Crawford thought Bradley was going toward the middle, while Bradley was headed to the corner.
Stevens shot up from his seat when the rather flashy pass resulted in an ugly turnover at a crucial moment.
After Crawford’s bad pass, Cleveland guard Jarrett Jack made a 3-pointer that cut the Celtics’ lead to single digits. Jack hit another 3-pointer with 2:38 left, forcing the Celtics to call a timeout.
Crawford later hit a crucial shot in the lane that helped extend the Celtics’ lead, and since Boston won, his turnover will be lost to history as just a small bump in the road.
“I like to have fun out there,” a smiling Crawford said when asked about that pass. “I kept the team loose with that turnover, you know what I’m saying?”
Crawford said that, of course, he just had to move on from that play.
“If you want to be a good player, that’s what you’ve got to do,” he said. “It wasn’t really a big deal to me at the time. Just, next play.”
Bump for Wallace
Wallace played nine minutes off the bench but sat out in the second half after being hit in the nose. It was just a bump, though; no bones were broken. Wallace finished with 2 points and is expected to play in the Celtics’ next game Tuesday against Atlanta at the Garden . . . Bradley nearly completely a highlight-worthy, one-handed alley-oop dunk off a long pass from Crawford, but he came up just a bit short, instead slamming the ball into the side of the rim. “He said he didn’t know where he was at when he went up, but that’s him trying to make a play,” Green said with a laugh. “This time, the rim denied him.”Baxter Holmes can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @BaxterHolmes.