Kevin Love catches fire early, Kyrie Irving takes charge late as Cavs survive furious Celtics rally
Kyrie Irving scored back-to-back clutch layups entering the final minute to keep the Celtics at bay. AP

KYRIE Irving, Kevin Love and LeBron James all had double-doubles as the Cleveland Cavaliers survived a furious fourth quarter rally from 20 points down by the Boston Celtics to eke out a 124-118 win at the Quicken Loans Arena on Thursday (Friday, Manila time)

Kevin Love caught fire with three triples each in the first and third quarters, but the Cavs could not get past a scrappy Celtics side despite a 10-0 start after the break to build a 17-point lead, 76-59.

Avery Bradley carried the fight for Boston, scoring 11 in the first quarter, before jamming his thumb in the second quarter, where Isaiah Thomas took over in dropping 17 of his 19 first half markers to trail only by seven at the break.

But LeBron James started taking charge late in the third, exploiting Boston’s smaller defenders in the post, to push the Cavs lead to 20 entering the fourth quarter.

Boston’s reserves, though, cut down the gap to six, 108-102, with 5:47 left via a 21-7 blitz, even without Thomas on the floor. Celtics got within one, 113-112, with 2:13 to play, but Kyrie Irving had back-to-back clutch layups entering the final minute to put Cavs up 118-114 with 53 ticks to go.

Irving then left the game due to a sore hamstring before James countered Thomas’ pair of free throws with a split from the stripe to leave the door open for Boston in the final play.

Jae Crowder, however, missed a wide-open three pointer and Richard Jefferson drilled two freebies for insurance with 8.5 left in the game. And Al Horford got stripped on the next play with Love sinking another pair of free throws to seal the win.

Irving led the Cavs with 32 points and 12 assists as Cleveland got back on track to move to 23-7. Love had 30 markers and 15 rebounds, while James added 23 points and 11 dimes along with eight rebounds.

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Thomas had 31 to lead Boston, who fell to 19-14. Bradley finished with 23 markers, while Crowder and Jonas Jerebko scored 13 and 12, respectively.

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