LeBron James helps Cleveland Cavaliers win Eastern Conference showdown with Boston Celtics

By Doug Alden, The Sports Xchange  |  April 6, 2017 at 12:49 AM
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BOSTON -- The Cleveland Cavaliers left no doubt about who is on top in the Eastern Conference.

LeBron James scored 36 points and pulled down 10 rebounds as Cleveland dominated Boston and pulled one game ahead of the Celtics at the top of the Eastern Conference standings with a 114-91 victory Wednesday night.

Kevin Love finished with 15 points and 16 rebounds, and Kyrie Irving added 19 points for the Cavaliers, who were much the best in the highly anticipated showdown for the No. 1 playoff seed in the Eastern Conference.

"We played Cavs basketball tonight. When we do that, we're a pretty good team," said James, who finished four assists shy of his third straight triple-double.

The blowout clinched the season series 3-1 for Cleveland, which holds the head-to-head tiebreaker if the Celtics (50-28) catch the Cavs (51-27) again over the final four games.

Cleveland scored 38 in the second period and led 57-42 at halftime. The third quarter was just as one-sided as the Cavs kept up the pressure against the reeling Celtics, who were down 90-66 entering the final period.

"Obviously, we'd like to finish first in the East and have home court," Love said. "I think tonight we put together a good string of basketball for just about 48 minutes. I felt like it had been a while since we put together a game like that."

Cleveland led in almost every category Wednesday. The Cavs outscored the Celtics inside 58-48 and pulled down 51 rebounds to Boston's 38. The Celtics had 13 turnovers to the Cavs' 10, three of which were committed by reserves playing out the final four minutes.

The Cavs finished 43 of 92 from the floor despite shooting only 26 percent in the first quarter.

"You name it, they were better in every category and made it really tough on us," Boston coach Brad Stevens said. "They played with more purpose, more pace. Again, you name it, they won it."

Isaiah Thomas led Boston with 26 points and six assists. Jae Crowder scored 13 and Al Horford and Kelly Olynyk added 12 points apiece for the Celtics, who never recovered after Cleveland's breakout second quarter.

"Every time they go on runs like that it's hard to take yourself out of that hole," Thomas said.

Cleveland was coming off a 122-102 victory over Orlando on Tuesday but showed no signs of fatigue from having to travel for the second of back-to-back games. The Cavs were in command from the second quarter on and rested James and others in the banged up, short-handed lineup down the stretch.

Cleveland trailed 20-19 at the end of the first quarter, then James took over in the second.

Richard Jefferson gave the Cavs their first lead with a dunk 13 seconds into the period and the Cavs never let up. Kyle Korver's 3-pointer with 7:30 left in the half extended the Cavaliers' lead to 37-24 and prompted a timeout by Boston. The break didn't slow down Cleveland.

James pulled down a rebound on a missed 3-pointer by Crowder and took it the length of the court for a dunk, which he followed with a block when Marcus Smart attempted to drive on him. James finished with 15 points in the period.

Cleveland won easily despite not having Tristan Thompson. The Cavs center didn't travel with the club after spraining his right thumb Tuesday night in a victory over Orlando, ending his streak of consecutive games played at 447. The streak started when he was a rookie in February 2012.

NOTES: Channing Frye started at center for Cleveland with Tristan Thompson out, and he finished with 10 points and eight rebounds. ... Cavs F Kyle Korver, who returned to the lineup Tuesday after missing 11 straight games with a sore left foot, played again Wednesday rather than sit out the second of Cleveland's back-to-back set. He scored six points. ... G Isaiah Thomas had 17 points in the first half and F Al Horford scored 12, but no other Boston player had more than five points in the first two quarters. ... The Celtics visit Atlanta on Thursday night, and Cleveland is at home Friday against the Hawks.

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