CLEVELAND – Once he got control of the ball and let his shot fly, Avery Bradley prepared to get mobbed.
The Celtics had pulled off the improbable.
Bradley made a 3-pointer from the corner at the horn to give Boston a stunning 104-103 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night, the Celtics’ eighth win in nine games.
“I knew it was there,” said Bradley, who had to regain his dribble before launching the winner. “It’s a great feeling. I lost the ball for a second and I didn’t even think I had enough time to get the shot off — but I did.”
After blowing a seven-point lead in the last 3 minutes, the Boston still trailed by four with 7 seconds left before things began to bounce their way.
A little Celtics magic. Boston was down 101-96 with 18 seconds remaining before Celtics forward Jae Crowder, who played on a tender ankle, made a 3-pointer — his only basket — and Evan Turner scored on a layup while being fouled by J.R. Smith with 4 seconds to go. Turner missed his free throw but the ball went out of bounds off Cleveland’s LeBron James.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens quickly drew up an inbounds play during a video review. As he took the floor, guard Marcus Smart had a premonition Bradley was about to be a hero.
“I had a feeling it was going in even before he shot it,” Smart said. The bucket triggered a wild celebration by the young Celtics, who were swept by the Cavs in last year’s playoffs.
“In the big picture it does count as one (win), but it gives you a sense you’re improving and getting better,” Stevens said. “For us it would have been disappointing to lose that lead and not come out with a win.
“They made huge plays late in the game, but our guys stayed poised. To score five points inside 8 seconds is a good deal.”
James scored 30 points to lead the Cavs, who dropped to 5-3 under new coach Tyronn Lue.
Isaiah Thomas scored 22 points and Turner had 19 points and 12 rebounds for the Celtics, who are developing into a dangerous team under Stevens.
James scored 13 in the fourth quarter for the Cavs. Cleveland went just 21 of 35 from the free-throw line.
“I can’t describe it,” Lue said. “You just have to step up and make free throws.”
Cleveland appeared to be in control when Kyrie Irving, who finished with 19 points, knocked down two free throws to make it 103-99. But Smith inexplicably got too close to Turner and bumped him from behind on his layup, committing his sixth foul.
The Cavs then failed to come up with Turner’s missed free throw and the Celtics made them pay.
“They just kept fighting,” Irving said.
Cleveland lost Kevin Love in the third quarter with a bruised left thigh. A limping Love had to be helped to the locker room and did not return. He hopes rest and treatment will allow him to play Saturday.
Nuggets 115, Bulls 110
In Denver, Danilo Gallinari scored 33 points and Denver rallied after Chicago lost All-Star Jimmy Butler to a sprained left knee.
Spurs 116, Mavericks 90
In Dallas, Kawhi Leonard scored 16 of his 23 points in the first half and San Antonio handed the Mavericks their largest halftime deficit (62-26) in franchise history in a blowout.
Heat 98, Hornets 95
In Charlotte, Hassan Whiteside had 10 points, 10 rebounds and 10 blocked shots and Miami came up with two key steals in the closing seconds of a victory over the hosts.
Grizzlies 91, Knicks 85
In New York, Jeff Green scored 16 points, including two free throws with 6.2 seconds left, to help Memphis hold off the Knicks for its fifth straight win.
Clippers 107, Magic 93
In Orlando, Chris Paul had 21 points and six assists, DeAndre Jordan had 12 points and 18 boards and Los Angeles whipped Orlando for its fifth win in six games.
Nets 128, Kings 119
In New York, Joe Johnson had season highs with 27 points and 11 assists, and Brooklyn had its best offensive performance of the season in beating Sacramento.
Wizards 106, 76ers 94
In Washington, John Wall had his fourth career triple-double with 18 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists, leading the Wizards over Philadelphia.
Hawks 102, Pacers 96
In Atlanta, Paul Millsap scored 24 points, Al Horford added 21 and the Hawks won their third straight game with a victory over Indiana.
Jazz 84, Bucks 81
In Salt Lake City, Rodney Hood scored 23 points and Utah pulled away late despite an ugly offensive performance.