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Jayson Tatum scores 33 points, Celtics rebound from loss to beat Cavs 106-93 for 2-1 series lead

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CLEVELAND (AP) — Green uniforms. Big shots. Championship-level intensity.

The Boston Celtics looked much more like themselves in Game 3.

Jayson Tatum scored 33 points, Jaylen Brown added 28 and the No. 1-seeded Celtics bounced back from a stumble at home, beating the Cleveland Cavaliers 106-93 on Saturday night to take a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

The Celtics didn’t mess around after dropping Game 2 on their home parquet floor by 24 on Thursday. They couldn’t.

“We don’t come to Cleveland for the weather, so let’s go,” said Brown, who went 13 of 17 from the field. “There’s nothing complicated about it: Play defense and the rest will take care of itself. We could have done better, but we kept them under 100.”

The lackluster performance — Boston was favored by double digits — in Game 2 was reminiscent of the first round, when the Celtics lost the second game against Miami before winning three in a row to eliminate the Heat.

“Tonight was a great test, an opportunity for us to come out and respond, and play better and harder,” said Tatum, who added 13 rebounds and six assists. “There was a purpose behind every play. We did a good job communicating our actions.”

Tatum scored on a three-point play and the Celtics opened the second half with 14 straight points to take a 23-point lead.

That was way too much for the Cavs, who overcame a 22-point deficit in the fourth quarter to stun Boston in March.

“We felt like trying to punch them in the face right away was the right option,” said Jrue Holiday, who scored 15 of his 18 points in the first half. “J.B. (Brown) told us it wasn’t over and we knew that. We’ve been up 20 in the fourth quarter here and they came back and won.”

Donovan Mitchell scored 33 points for Cleveland, but the All-Star guard aggravated a left knee injury in the fourth quarter and was labored. With Boston up 13 and in control, Mitchell left the court with 1:19 left and walked directly to the locker room.

Afterward, Mitchell didn’t say anything about the injury, but bemoaned Cleveland’s slow start after halftime.

“It changed the game,” he said. “Give them credit. They came out with a sense of urgency. It’s tough to come back from that. They came out with an intention.”

Cleveland got within nine three times in the fourth but the Celtics, who went just 8 of 35 on 3-pointers in Game 2, got back-to-back 3s from Payton Pritchard and Derrick White to slow the Cavs’ comeback.

Game 4 is Monday night in Cleveland.

“We need everybody to be on the same page and everybody to come out with the same effort,” Brown said. “The rest will take care of itself because we’ve got enough talent in this locker room.”

Down by 23 and unable to stop Tatum, the Cavs clawed back.

They cut Boston’s lead to 15 by the end of the third, and scored the first six points in the fourth, sending their towel-waving crowd at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse looking for another upset into a frenzy.

But whenever the Celtics needed a bucket, they went to either Tatum or Brown, who broke down Cleveland’s defense for layups or made tough, contested jumpers.

“When they get going, that’s who they are,” Mitchell said. “We fought and we clawed back but that start of the third quarter, that’s what did it.”

Evan Mobley added 17 points and Darius Garland and Caris LeVert 15 apiece for the Cavs, who lost for the first time at home in these playoffs.

Cleveland was again without starting center Jarrett Allen, who missed his sixth straight game with a painful rib injury. Allen has been out since Game 4 of the opening-round series against Orlando and there’s no telling when — or if — he’ll be available.

Mitchell made six 3-pointers and scored 23 in the first half to pace the Cavs, but Cleveland didn’t get nearly enough from the rest of its starters or bench as the Celtics opened a 57-48 halftime lead.

After the Celtics were stunned on their home floor in Game 2 despite being heavy favorites, coach Joe Mazzulla said the message to his players heading into Game 3 was simple.

“Do what you do best, and do it better,” he said.

The Celtics started cold again, missing their first two 3-pointers. But those good early looks raised their confidence, and they made 5 3s in the first quarter to take a 30-28 lead after one.

By then Game 2 was forgotten, and Tatum was confident all the Celtics would show up.

“I’ve done that plenty of times before (score 33 points),” he said. “The points will come and go, but the poise we played with was the most important. And we did it in a great environment that was fun to be a part of.”

Cleveland got a nice early lift as forward Dean Wade made his postseason debut after missing the past two months with a sprained knee. Wade, who scored a career-high 23 against Boston on March 5 when the Cavs overcame a 22-point deficit in the fourth quarter, knocked down a 3-pointer on his first touch.

Boston center Kristaps Porzingis missed his fourth straight game with a calf strain.

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AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA

By TOM WITHERS
AP Sports Writer

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