BOSTON -- It was the same play Cleveland ran at the end of regulation in its third game this season -- the third game of Kyrie Irving's NBA career.
He missed that one.
On Sunday night, Cavaliers coach Byron Scott called it again.
"He (learned) not to miss the layup this time," Scott said after Irving made a layup with 2.6 seconds left to give the Cavaliers an 88-87 victory over Boston. "He had that little look in his eye like he wanted it, almost like he wanted to redeem himself."
Irving scored 23 points, including the go-ahead layup in the final seconds as Cleveland scored the last 12 points of the game to snap Boston's four-game winning streak. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft, Irving remembered missing a potential game-winner on the same play when the Cavaliers played Indiana on Dec. 30.
"They gave me the ball at the end of the game and they trusted me to make that shot," said Irving, whose father, former Boston University star Drederick Irving, was in the stands. "So I'm happy that I actually made the shot this time."
Irving scored eight points in the fourth quarter, including six in the 12-0 run that brought the Cavs back for the win. Anderson Varejao scored 18 points and added nine rebounds for Cleveland, which had lost five of six.
Ray Allen returned from an ankle injury and scored 22 points, making 4 of 6 from 3-point range. But he missed a jumper from the left corner when Boston still held a one-point lead on its second-to-last possession.
"This was a bad loss for us," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "Not that it was Cleveland; it was that we had the game under control. And we didn't take care of it."
Paul Pierce scored 18 points with six rebounds and five assists and seven turnovers for the Celtics. But he couldn't get a shot off after Boston inbounded the ball with 2.1 seconds left.
After the game, Pierce acknowledged turning the ball over too much. But asked what the Celtics should have done differently in the fourth, when he sat on the bench until the 3:42 mark -- Boston still led by eight points at the time -- he said, "Maybe I should have played more."
Boston led 87-76 before Cleveland scored eight straight points, including two layups by Varejao, to make it 87-84 with 98 seconds left. After a timeout, Pierce missed a finger roll and Alonzo Gee, who was hacked trying to score on an offensive rebound, sank a pair of free throws to make it a one-point game.
Allen missed from the left corner, and Kevin Garnett grabbed the rebound but traveled. Irving missed for Cleveland and Varejao got the rebound out to Antawn Jamison, who missed a 3-pointer. Boston's Brandon Bass got the rebound but Gee knocked it loose, Varejao went to the floor to corral it and called a timeout.
Irving dribbled down the clock near midcourt, then drove to the basket, spun and laid it in to give Cleveland its first lead in almost 20 minutes.
Pierce got the ball on the inbounds pass and was fouled. He got the ball again on the restart, took one dribble and got off a shot that bounced off the rim as the officials waved it off anyway.
Boston fell to 4-2 since point guard Rajon Rondo went out with a right wrist injury. The Celtics were also without Allen for three games with a sore left ankle.
The Celtics had beaten the Cavaliers twice in a row and five times in their last six meetings, including the last three games of a second-round playoff series in 2010 that was LeBron James' swan song in Cleveland.
Cleveland led 44-43 at halftime. Cleveland led 55-53 early in the third quarter before Allen hit a 3-pointer to start the Celtics on a 14-2 run that gave them the first double-digit lead of the game for either team.
Cleveland G Anthony Parker had back spasms and did not play in the second half. ... Irving made his first six shots. ... Celtics point guard Avery Bradley went to the locker room in the third quarter with a rolled ankle. He had it re-taped and returned to the game. ... The Celtics held a moment of silence for former Boston mayor Kevin White, who died on Friday.