The Celtics, who made 15 of 21 shots in the fourth quarter, rallied behind the 36 points of Reggie Lewis to beat Cleveland, 110-107, Friday night for a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinals.
The Celtics have won 20 of their last 22 games. The last 14 games--six in the playoffs--have been without Larry Bird, who is sidelined because of an ailing back, and the Celtics have won all but one. Their winning streak at Boston Garden is 20 games.
Lewis scored 13 points in the final quarter, nine in the decisive 15-6 run over a 3 1/2-minute span that put Boston ahead to stay.
"What a comeback that was," Boston Coach Chris Ford said. "It took a great effort by us. The guys are playing with confidence. We didn't execute properly, but we hang tough. We came up with the big plays when we needed to."
Usually that meant Lewis, who matched his career playoff scoring high.
"They gave it to Reggie Lewis and he hit the big shots," Cleveland's John Battle said.
"Reggie was outstanding," Cleveland Coach Lenny Wilkens said. "He was difficult to contain. He was terrific."
Lewis made his last six shots and finished 17 for 32 while handing out seven assists.
"I had the hot hand," Lewis said. "Both teams were very aggressive, but I think now I'm ready for their defense. The shots were falling and they kept getting me the ball."
Kevin McHale came off the bench for 22 points. Ed Pinckney, filling in for Bird, had a playoff career-high 17. Robert Parish scored only 11 points, but he grabbed 17 rebounds and Pinckney had 13 as the Celtics enjoyed a 45-33 edge off the boards.
Mark Price led the Cavaliers with 27 points. Brad Daugherty had 22 and Larry Nance 19.
Game 4 is Sunday at Boston Garden.
The Cavaliers led by six at the outset of the fourth quarter on four points by Daugherty around a basket by Lewis. When Price made two more free throws with just under seven minutes left, Cleveland led, 93-89
Pinckney drove in for a layup, Dee Brown hit a long jumper for a 93-93 tie and Lewis did the rest.
"We were in the game all the way," Nance said. "We played well, but we've got to be smarter down the stretch."