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Cavs rally from 22 down, win critical last-second challenge to stun Celtics, snap 11-game winning streak

The Cleveland Cavaliers cooled off the scorching Boston Celtics in stunning fashion Tuesday.

Sparked by backup Dean Wade, the Cavs rallied from a 22-point fourth-quarter deficit then saw a last-second foul of Jayson Tatum overturned to beat the Celtics, 105-104, snapping Boston's 11-game win streak.

The Cavaliers trailed, 93-71 with nine minutes left, then reeled off a 34-11 run to close the fourth quarter capped by a Wade dunk with 19 seconds remaining. With Boston leading 104-103 in the game's final 30 seconds, Darius Garland drove to the basket for a contested layup. He missed, but Wade was there for the putback to give the Cavs the lead and send the Cleveland crowd into a frenzy.

For a moment, Tatum appeared to play spoiler on the other end. The Celtics All-Star pulled up for a fadeaway jump shot in the game's final seconds. He missed, but a whistle blew with 0.7 seconds left. Officials ruled that Garland fouled Tatum on the shot, which would have put the 82.9% free-throw shooter on the line with a chance to win the game.

Garland barely touched Tatum after the ball was released. He then collided with Tatum's leg as Tatum fell to the floor. The Cavs didn't like the call, and head coach J.B. Bickerstaff used his challenge. Garland's collision with Tatum's leg proved crucial in the outcome of the game.

Upon review, officials determined that that there was no foul on the pivotal play. Official Zachary Zarba announced that "the leg kick by the right leg of Tatum was deemed to make contact with Garland, where otherwise contact would not have have happened. Therefore the ruling on the floor is overturned."

Officials didn't call an offensive foul on Tatum, so the Celtics and Cavaliers jumped it up at center court with 0.7 seconds remaining. The Celtics won the tip, but there wasn't enough time on the clock to call a timeout. The game was over, and the Cavs escaped with a stunner on their home court.

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With the win, the Cavaliers improved to 40-21 to move within half a game of the second-place Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference standings. The first-place Celtics dropped to 48-13, but remain in full control of the conference, 7.5 games ahead of the Bucks. If that was a second-round playoff preview, we're in for a thriller.

Short-handed Cavs lose Evan Mobley

The Cavs entered Tuesday's game with injuries to key players. All-Star Donovan Mitchell missed a third-straight game with a bone bruise in his left knee. The injury required a platelet-rich plasma injection Monday, and the Cavaliers announced that he would miss at least three games. Max Strus missed the game with a knee strain.

Then in the third quarter, forward Evan Mobley went down with an apparent left ankle injury after twisting his ankle on a dunk.

He was able to limp to the locker room, but did not return to the game. His status beyond Tuesday wasn't immediately clear.

The Celtics led 69-62 at the time of Mobley's injury and extended that edge to 87-61 to end the third quarter. A 6-0 run to start the fourth seemingly put Boston in full control of the game.

Dean Wade took over in the fourth quarter with 20 points that included five 3-pointers. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Dean Wade took over in the fourth quarter with 20 points that included five 3-pointers. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Wade saves Cavs with huge 4th quarter

But Wade had other ideas. The reserve guard who entered Tuesday averaging 5.1 points per game reeled off 20 fourth-quarter points to lead the Cleveland rally. He hit two 3-pointers in three possessions to halt the Celtics run. With 2:35 left in the game, his fifth 3-pointer of the quarter gave the Cavs their first lead of the second half at 102-99.

Then came the putback dunk that put the Cavs ahead for good. In the end, Wade tallied 23 points, eight rebounds and two steals after entering the fourth quarter with three points. He shot 8 of 11 from the field including 6 of 9 from 3-point distance.

He celebrated his effort with an impressed Travis Kelce postgame.

Jarrett Allen was Cleveland's top-scoring starter, tallying 21 points and 12 rebounds.

Tatum led the Celtics with 26 points and 13 rebounds while shooting 5 of 9 from 3-point distance. But his late leg-kick ensured that Boston would not win the game. Kristaps Porzingis returned from a one-game absence in Sunday's blowout of the Golden State Warriors to tally 24 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two steals. Jaylen Brown added 21 points.

In the end, Cleveland's hot shooting from long-distance sparked by Wade proved to be the difference in the game. The Cavaliers overcame a 53-42 rebounding deficit with a 20-of-42 (47.6%) effort from beyond the arc to secure the win in a potential playoff preview.