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The Boston Celtics entered the final frame of Tuesday night's tilt in Cleveland with a 16-point lead. They appeared poised to extend the longest win streak in the NBA this season to 12 and improve upon their league-leading 48-12 record.

But against a shorthanded Cavaliers team, trying to overcome the absences of Donovan Mitchell and Max Strus, then seeing Evan Mobley exit after spraining his ankle in the third quarter, the visitors went into cruise control too early.

Their first-shot defense, which helped hold the hosts to 37.3 shooting in the first 36 minutes, suffered due to slow rotations and late contests. That led to Dean Wade erupting for 20 points in the last 12 minutes.

A career 37 percent three-point shooter, the six-foot-nine forward drilled all 7/7 shots he took in the final frame, including the five threes he hoisted. 

He also had a put-back slam after a missed layup by Darius Garland that proved the winning basket in Cleveland's 105-104 victory.

"We played well enough for a good portion of it, and in the second half in the fourth quarter, we didn't. They got hot, they got in a rhythm, and we didn't make enough plays," voiced Jayson Tatum after the loss.

After Wade's go-ahead dunk with 19 seconds left, Boston took its time bringing the ball up the floor. Joe Mazzulla said afterward that he tried to take a timeout with 4.6 seconds remaining, but neither the officials nor his team noticed.

Still, the Celtics got the mismatch they wanted, with Tatum getting the ball and Garland guarding him. His fadeaway attempt initially earned him a trip to the free-throw line with Boston down one with 0.1 seconds on the clock, but a successful challenge by the Cavaliers negated that.

"It was unfortunate," said the five-time All-Star, who finished with 26 points and 13 rebounds, both game-highs. "I thought I got fouled, but they didn't think I got fouled, and it's tough because we would have had the tip in," referring to Kristaps Porzingis' put-back on his missed mid-range jump shot. 

After the hosts' challenge and the game clock reset to 0.7 seconds, the C's won the ensuing jump ball at half court, but time expired before they got granted a timeout.

"Just a weird way to end the game," expressed Tatum. "But they always say the game isn't won or lost on the last play. There's a lot of things that we didn't do well in that fourth quarter that put us in that position."

Tuesday's loss, in which the visitors got outscored 34-17 in the fourth quarter, provided unexpected crunch-time reps, defined as the final five minutes of a matchup within five points. 

During that stretch, Boston went 3/9, including 0/3 from beyond the arc, getting outscored 17-7 by a Cavaliers team that went 4/4 from three-point range.

The most glaring possession was, of course, the one at the end, with Tatum saying at the podium afterward that he should've gone faster.

"Just be aware," said the six-year veteran. "I mean, obviously, I know how much time is on the clock just in case some (expletive) like that happened. Maybe we'd have more time or maybe another opportunity."

Jaylen Brown, who finished with 21 points and four assists, conveyed of the loss, "That's what happens when you don't mash the gas and take the little things for granted throughout the game, and you let a team stick around."

The three-time All-Star also voiced, "Today matters. Whether everybody wants to throw it away or not, we've got to look at the film and address some stuff because that matters."

Kristaps Porzingis, who stuffed the stat sheet with 24 points, nine rebounds, three assists, three blocks, and two steals, views the defeat as healthy for a team that had beaten its last five opponents by an average of 30.2 points.

"I think it's healthy for us," stated the seven-foot-three center. "We do have a feeling that we're like pretty much gonna win every game, (that) we're invincible. We're gonna win this game. No matter what happens, we're like, 'We've got this.'"

The Latvian native added, "A little bit of that feeling is always there; it's maybe healthy, but it's also healthy to get a loss here and there to kind of like, 'Alright, here we go, let's recalibrate a little bit and have that attention to detail again.' 

"So, I think it's completely fine, and I think it's necessary for us to keep building."

Their next chance to do so is Thursday night at Ball Arena against Nikola Jokic and the defending champion Denver Nuggets, who beat the Celtics 102-100 in their first meeting this season.

Further Reading

Warriors' 'Disrespect' Only One Source of Fuel for Jaylen Brown Sunday

'The Best Team in the NBA': Luka Doncic Struck by Celtics' Balance

Jaylen Brown's Evolution Crucial to Celtics' Desire to Win with More Than Talent

Celtics Embracing Challenge to Go Beyond Most Talented

Jayson Tatum Opens Up About Sacrificing in Celtics' Title Pursuit: 'It's a Process'

Brad Stevens Discusses Celtics' Plan for Final Roster Spot

Marcus Smart Shares How Boston Shaped Him, His Message to Celtics Fans

Celtics Maturation Molded by Experience: 'It Builds, Like, an Armor'

Jaylen Brown Quieting Doubters, Validating What He Always Believed: 'Earn Everybody's Trust'

Joe Mazzulla Discusses Identity, Evolution of Celtics' Offense: 'Balance of Pace and Execution'