November 13, 2014

The Boston Celtics showed plenty of mettle in bouncing back from a near miss against the defending NBA champions.

They'll now have a shot at upending the reigning Eastern Conference champs in Tuesday night's showdown with a Cleveland Cavaliers team that's finally getting closer to full strength.

After giving then-unbeaten Golden State all it could handle in a gut-wrenching 124-119 double-overtime loss Friday at TD Garden, the Celtics displayed little fatigue and lots of resolve in dealing Southeast Division-leading Charlotte a 98-93 defeat on the road the next night.

Trailing by five in the third quarter, Boston (14-10) reversed momentum with a 25-8 run to move to 4-1 in the second end of back-to-backs.

"It says a lot about us as a team and our character," guard Evan Turner told the Celtics' official website. "Some people will mail it in when they're tired, and we try to step up and do what we need to do."

The Celtics will have two days of rest before hosting Cleveland (15-7), which just got one key player back from injury and appears on the verge of having one of its most important ones returning.

Sparked by Iman Shumpert's debut, the Cavaliers recorded their most lopsided win of the season in Friday's 111-76 rout at Orlando. The defensive stopper, sidelined since late September by a wrist injury, scored 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting in 25 minutes in a game Cleveland led by as many as 40.

''It felt great," Shumpert said. "It was all worth it, the extra work, the extra running, all the trash talk from my teammates to get me ready. I feel good. I could have played some more.''

LeBron James had 25 points in three quarters during one of the Cavaliers' most impressive all-around efforts. Cleveland shot a season-best 56.9 percent and scored 31 points off 20 turnovers in its second straight victory following a season-high three-game skid.

Shumpert may soon be joined on the court by Kyrie Irving with the All-Star point guard in the final stages of his rehab from a fractured left kneecap suffered during June's NBA Finals. Irving is expected to play sometime during an upcoming three-game homestand that precedes the Cavaliers' Christmas night rematch with Golden State, which had its 28-game regular-season win streak halted by Milwaukee one night after edging the Celtics.

J.R. Smith is probable for Cleveland after missing Friday's game with an illness.

Shumpert's perimeter defense should come in handy, much like it did during the Cavaliers' sweep of Boston in last season's quarterfinals. The Celtics shot 25.6 percent from 3-point range for the series, but they've averaged 10.3 makes over a 5-2 stretch.

Avery Bradley is shooting 46.7 percent on 3s during that time and Isaiah Thomas is 10 for 22 over his last four. Both guards were instrumental to Boston's latest win, as Bradley scored 11 of his 23 points during the pivotal third quarter and Thomas had a season-high 13 assists along with 21 points.

"He's a handful,'' Hornets coach Steve Clifford said of Thomas. "He's going to be in the paint. Then you are forced to help and then they are going to get quality shots."

The teams split four meetings during last year's regular season. Excluding the playoffs, the Cavaliers are 4-11 at TD Garden since April 2007.

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