Perfect start for Rozier, scores 26 points to carry Celtics past Cavaliers

BOSTON (AP) — The Boston Celtics had a little tune-up before their big mid-winter test.

Terry Rozier scored 22 of his 26 points in the first half and the Celtics coasted to their fifth straight victory with a 123-103 win over the struggling Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night.

Now, they look ahead to a showdown with defending champion Golden State at TD Garden tomorrow night.

“We have a great test on Saturday and we’ll learn more about us,” Boston coach Brad Stevens said. “We’re not where we want to be at this point.”

Jaylen Brown scored 23 points, Gordon Hayward 18 and Jayson Tatum 15 for Boston, which won its 10th straight at home. Rozier, who added eight rebounds and six assists, started in place of the ill Kyrie Irving and shot six for six and scored 16 points in the opening quarter. He made his only two shots in the second – both three-pointers – including a 31-foot buzzer-beater from the top of the key that gave Boston a 65-50 halftime lead.

Rozier said he found out via text from Irving in the morning that he was going to start, which helped him get “mentally prepared.”

Boston Celtics guard Terry Rozier (L) drives to the basket ahead of Cleveland Cavaliers guard Alec Burks. – AP

Irving was sidelined with flu-like symptoms, and Boston was also without Al Horford, who was given the night off to rest and be fresh for the Warriors. Horford had missed seven games in December with a sore left knee before they built his minutes back up.

When asked about team’s winning streak at home, Rozier said: “That’s a big one to get 11 in a row. We know how big this game is.”

Cedi Osman led the Cavaliers with a career-high 25 points and eight rebounds, and Ante Zizic had 19 points with eight boards. Cleveland has lost five in a row and 17 of its last 18.

The Cavaliers might have been in town, but a good number of fans at might have been already looking ahead to tomorrow’s game with the Warriors. It was relatively quiet until Boston took charge with a 27-11 run to close the second quarter, pushing its lead from two to 15 at the half.

“I thought they sped us up a little bit,” Cavaliers coach Larry Drew said. “You know we had a real good pace going at the beginning. Second quarter, I thought their pressure kind of sped us up. We took some bad shots, we turned the basketball over and on the road you just can’t do that, particularly against a good team.”

Marcus Smart started the spree, hitting a three-pointer – one of five the Celtics had in the run. Rozier had two, the last coming just before the buzzer, bringing the crowd to its feet.

In the second half, Robert Williams’ basket pushed Boston’s lead to 86-67 late in the third quarter. It was 12 points entering the final quarter and early garbage time after the Celtics opened the fourth by scoring the first seven points.