CLEVELAND — When an opportunity arises, Boston Celtics center Kelly Olynyk said, one has to be ready to pounce on it.
That’s what the 7-footer did on Saturday night. He matched his season-high with 25 points and added a season-high 12 rebounds in the Celtics’ 111-99 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers before 18,456 at Quicken Loans Arena.
“The season is long and grueling,” Olynyk said. “Guys are going to fall in and out of the lineup. When an opportunity is presented, you have to be ready to seize it.”
The Cavs (32-49) certainly did not seize anything. They fell behind the Celtics by 33 points in the fourth quarter before their late rally.
Cleveland outscored Boston 41-22 in the fourth quarter to make the final score look more presentable.
Guards Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Jarrett Jack each had 15 points for the Cavs.
As soon as the Cavaliers were eliminated from the Eastern Conference playoff race, it seems as if they lost their inspiration to play.
“You invest so much making a push down the stretch,” Cavs center Spencer Hawes said. “We have to do a better job battling human nature and not allowing that to impact our effort.”
Cleveland has lost back-to-back games to Boston and Milwaukee, which are a combined 80 games below .500.
“This part of the season is hard,” Cavs coach Mike Brown said. “It’s real hard for a lot of teams in our situation — that have guys who are banged up and bruised and out of the hunt, out of the chase.
“My whole thing is every time we step on the floor, whether it’s for practice or shootaround, I want my guys to continue to appreciate an opportunity to get better.”
That certainly did not happen against the Celtics, who had just eight healthy bodies available for the game.
Guard Avery Bradley also scored 25 points for the Celtics, who came into the game having lost 14 of their last 16 games.
The Celtics also received 19 points apiece from forwards Jeff Green and Brandon Bass.
Point guard Phil Pressey dished out 13 assists for the second consecutive night for the Celtics.
Irving had an off shooting night and finished just 3 of 15 from the field. In the last two games, Irving has averaged 13.5 points — eight below his average — and made a combined 7 of 27 shots from the field.
Like many of his teammates, his mind appears to be elsewhere.
“For the most part, I thought we did a pretty good job on Irving and Waiters,” Boston coach Brad Stevens said. “We tried to make it as difficult as possible (for them). You’re dead if you don’t.
“They missed a couple of mid-range shots that if they hit those and get rolling, it’s a different story.”
Brown lauded the play of Anderson Varejao, Alonzo Gee, Matthew Dellavedova, Tyler Zeller and Jack for their play in the fourth quarter. The coach wondered how the Cavs had 11 assists on 16 field goals in the fourth quarter but just 11 assists in the rest of the game.
“I felt like we were playing basketball again,” he said. “We played with a pace. We played with a rhythm. For me, I was excited. For me, the most important thing was to play the right way.”
NOTES: The Cavs played without F Luol Deng for the second consecutive game. He has a sore back. “He’s been banged up most of the year,” Cavs coach Mike Brown said. The coach said he’s not sure whether Deng will play in the season finale on Wednesday. … Celtics C Jared Sullinger was held out of Saturday’s game with a sprained left ankle. He was replaced by rookie Kelly Olynyk, who was making his seventh start of the season. … All-Star G Rajon Rondo was held out with a strained left shin. He was replaced by rookie Phil Pressey, who had 13 assists on Friday against Charlotte. … Cavs G Kyrie Irving’s summer could extend until mid-September if he makes the World Cup team. “The big word there is ‘if’ I make the team,” he said. … Even though the Celtics had just eight players available on Saturday, “Our focus will remain the same,” Irving said before the game. … If Cavs F Tristan Thompson starts Wednesday against Brooklyn — and there is no reason to think that he won’t – he will have started 164 of 164 games in the past two seasons.
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