CLEVELAND — The youngest player on the roster got the Cavaliers in a little trouble and the oldest couldn’t get them out of it.
Nineteen-year-old Kyrie Irving made a crucial turnover and missed on a drive late in the game before 36-year-old Anthony Parker had a 29-footer bounce off the rim at the buzzer, allowing the Boston Celtics to escape Quicken Loans Arena with an 86-83 win Tuesday night.
“It wasn’t my favorite look, but it was enough to get a shot off,” said Parker, who inbounded to Daniel Gibson with 2.4 seconds left and took a quick return pass before misfiring. “I feel comfortable taking those types of shots. It was on line and it had a chance. It just didn’t fall.”
The loss dropped the Cavs (13-19) 2½ games behind the Celtics (16-17) and New York Knicks (17-18), who they visit tonight, in the battle for the final two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.
Irving had 21 of his 24 points in the second half, including 13 in the first 7:42 of the third period, but he made a crucial turnover in the final minute and nearly committed a second.
Cleveland was up 81-80 when Irving, coming off a high screen, tried to throw a one-handed swing pass over the long arms of 6-foot-11 Kevin Garnett, leading to a steal and run-out dunk for Ray Allen with 48.6 seconds left.
“I wasn’t careless,” the rookie said. “(Garnett) anticipated it and stole the ball and they got a layup.”
Cavs coach Byron Scott, who also made a couple decisions that were open to second-guessing, was a little more critical.
“That’s a pass he’s tried a few times,” the coach said. “More often than not, it’s been deflected or picked off because you’ve got 6-11 guys against you.”
On Cleveland’s next possession, Irving made another careless pass and the Celtics were given possession with 35.3 ticks on the clock, but a video review showed Allen, who was battling the Cavs’ Tristan Thompson, had touched the ball last.
Irving then drove the lane and appeared headed for a layup, but Paul Pierce came over to help and held his ground, resulting in an Irving miss with 27.9 seconds to play.
“I wish I could have finished it, honestly,” Irving said. “I’ve made tougher layups than that.”
There was contact on the play, but Scott didn’t think there was a foul.
“What I did think is once I saw Paul come over, I thought Alonzo (Gee) or somebody was wide open in the corner,” the coach said. “The next step for Kyrie is once he gets there — sometimes it’s hard at 6-3 when you have a 6-8 guy coming at you – sometimes the easiest play is just to find that open guy. Alonzo probably would have had a three attempt, but it would have been a wide-open three attempt.”
After Irving’s miss, Boston’s Rajon Rondo, a 61.5 percent shooter from the line and 0-for-6 from the field on a scoreless night, was dribbling with 25 seconds left, but Scott elected not to foul.
“There was a three- or four-second differential,” he said. “No, I wasn’t thinking about it at that time.”
With the shot clock ticking down, Garnett took a pass and missed a 16-footer, but snared the rebound and was fouled. He made both free throws to put the Celtics up 84-81 with 3.9 seconds left.
Boston then purposely fouled Irving before he got off a 3-pointer in the corner and the point guard made both free throws to make it a one-point game with 3.5 seconds to go.
Allen returned the favor by making two free throws at the 2.4-second mark, setting the stage for Parker’s miss at the buzzer.
“We got a good look,” Scott said. “He had it right on line. It was just a little short.”
As were the Cavs, who dug themselves out of a 28-12 hole late in the first period but couldn’t bring it home down the stretch.
“It’s a tough one to lose,” Scott said. “Our guys really, really competed.”
The Cavs got 13 points and 10 rebounds off the bench from Thompson and 13 points from reserve Ramon Sessions, but starters Parker (1), Semih Erden (4), Antawn Jamison (8) and Omri Casspi (10) had just 23 points combined.
Allen led Boston with 22 points, while Garnett had 18 points and eight boards and forwards Pierce and Brandon Bass had 12 points apiece.
“It’s a win; that’s all it was for us,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said after his team overcame 18 turnovers, 10 of them while blowing a big lead in the second quarter. “We needed this win; we’ll take this win.”
Irving, who was 8-for-14 from the field and perfect on three 3-point attempts, hit the funny bone on his right elbow and went to the locker room with 3:41 left in the first half, his hand completely numb. “I thought I was going to have my hand amputated,” he said with a smile.
• Jamison was 4-for-15 from the field, while Parker was 0-for-4. Jamison did have eight rebounds, while Parker had five assists.
• Though he had 11 assists, it wasn’t a good night for Rondo, who committed five first-half turnovers and allowed Irving to score eight points in the first four minutes of the third period.
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.