When Going Gets Tough, Cavs Get Tougher, Beat Celtics 108-88

While it seemed like the Cleveland Cavaliers were about to let the Boston Celtics and Rajon Rondo run away with a victory, LeBron James stepped in and made sure that was not the case.

The Cavaliers (45-14) held the Celtics to only 32 points in the second half and scored 35 points themselves in the fourth as they beat the Celtics in Boston 108-88 Thursday night.

LeBron James had 36 points, nine assists and seven rebounds, Mo Williams scored 14 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter, including four 3-pointers to put away Boston for good. While Boston was without Paul Pierce, out with a right thumb injury, Rajon Rondo led the way in the first quarter. Rondo had 19 points and 11 assists while Ray Allen scored 21 points. The Celtics cooled off as the game progressed and shot 3-for-21 in the fourth quarter as Cleveland snapped a nine-game losing streak in Boston, counting the playoffs.

“We haven’t had much success here,” James said. “We’ve lost nine times coming into this building. So it gets the monkey off our backs. But don’t read too much into it.”

James kept the Cavaliers in it for three quarters on a night they lost Shaquille O’Neal to a first-half thumb injury. After the game, Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said O’Neal will not play Friday’s game in Toronto against the Raptors.

The Cavs improved to 20-10 on the road, tying Boston for the best in the NBA, and avenged a 95-89 home loss on opening night. Cleveland outscored Boston (36-20) 60-32 in the second half, allowing just five baskets in the final 17 ½ minutes.

“When they were scoring that much, it was deflating. Took our wind away,” Boston coach Doc Rivers said. “We went from being a team with stops and attacking to the team being attacked.”

Cleveland had struggled defensively since the trade, a pattern that continued Thursday. The Celtics made 10 of their first 13 shots, with Rondo making five of the baskets and assisting on the other five. His layup with 33 seconds left gave Boston a 31-21 lead after one quarter.

Newcomer Nate Robinson’s 3-pointer extended the lead to 40-27 with 9:46 remaining in the half. The lead was still double digits after Allen nailed two 3s late in the half, and Boston carried a 56-48 lead into the break.

The Cavaliers limited the Celtics to 6-of-20 shooting in the third quarter, trimming the lead to 74-73 after James made a free throw with 0.4 seconds left.

Game Nugget: Former Celtics forward Leon Powe made his season debut to a nice ovation in the final minute of the first half. He was a key reserve on the Celtics’ championship team, but tore the ACL in his left knee during last season’s playoffs and wasn’t re-signed.