Al Horford broke a fourth-quarter tie with a layup and capped a 14-4 run with an alley-oop slam, helping the visiting Boston Celtics brush aside a challenge from the Cleveland Cavaliers for a 116-106 victory Tuesday night.
The win allowed the Celtics (44-31) to move within 1 1/2 games of idle Indiana (45-29) in a duel for the No. 4 seeding in the Eastern Conference.
The Celtics and Pacers, likely first-round opponents in the upcoming playoffs, have two head-to-heads remaining, including one Friday night at Boston, with home-court advantage in the best-of-7 on the line.
With Friday's showdown in mind, the Celtics elected to give star point guard Kyrie Irving a night off against the Cavaliers, leaving Horford as the go-to man with the game in the balance.
Boston led most of the way, including by as many as 12 points in the third quarter, before the Cavaliers rallied into a tie at 92 on a 3-pointer by Marquese Chriss with 9:10 remaining.
That's when Horford ignited the Celtics' game-winning run, hitting a layup with 8:57 left that put the visitors ahead for good.
He had another hoop and two free throws before capping the burst with his dunk off a Jayson Tatum assist, giving the Celtics a 106-96 lead with just 3:31 to go.
The Cavaliers got no closer than six the rest of the way.
Horford finished with 19 points and a team-high eight rebounds for the Celtics, who snapped a four-game losing streak.
Tatum and Marcus Smart shared team-high scoring honors for Boston with 21 points apiece, while Gordon Hayward added 15, Marcus Morris 14 and Terry Rozier 11 in a balanced attack.
Tatum shot 3-for-5 on 3-pointers, helping Boston gain a 30-27 advantage from beyond the arc.
The Celtics shot 50.5 percent overall and 40.0 percent on 3-pointers for the game.
Rookie Collin Sexton had a game-high 24 points for the Cavaliers, who lost their third straight after a two-game winning streak.
Kevin Love compiled a 10-point, 11-rebound double-double for Cleveland, while Jordan Clarkson chipped in with 18 points, Cedi Osman 15 and Larry Nance Jr. 13 to go with a game-high seven assists.
The Cavaliers shot 48.8 percent overall and 32.1 percent on 3-pointers.
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