James 'fails', Cavs pass late test

LeBron upset with his game that included 8 turnovers, Cleveland barely beat the Celtics

CLEVELAND (Ohio) • LeBron James presented himself a grade of F for his birthday.

Despite falling two rebounds shy of his 46th career triple-double, he blasted his own play as the Cleveland Cavaliers barely held on for a 124-118 National Basketball Association victory over the Boston Celtics after blowing an 18-point lead in the fourth quarter on Thursday.

The Cavs needed 32 points from Kyrie Irving to fend off Boston after entering the fourth quarter with a 101-83 lead.

James had 23 points, 11 assists, eight rebounds, eight turnovers and one bad mental lapse late in the game that kept the Celtics' hopes alive.

"I was horrible tonight," James said. "In every facet of the game, I was just pretty bad and it's unacceptable."

James, who turned 32 yesterday, went as far as to address his team-mates following the game because of the way he played.

After Jae Crowder's three-pointer pulled the Celtics within 113-108 with 3min 26sec left, James half-heartedly tapped the ball back to Irving after receiving the inbounds pass.

Avery Bradley was lingering in the area and stole it for the easy dunk that pulled the Celtics within three points.

"I just didn't see him," James said.

"If I was paying attention to him, with Avery being the defensive-minded guy he is, I should have seen him. Big mistake."

Irving, who also passed for 12 assists to register his fifth double-double in his last seven games, laughed at James' self-assessment.

"That guy is so special. He gives himself an F and he still ends up with 23, 8 and 11," Irving said.

"I understood just from the amount of expectations that he puts on himself every single night.

"But he thrives in that and I think it's good."

While James was chastising himself, Oklahoma City star Russell Westbrook was pointing fingers at others - namely the referees - after he was ejected in the third quarter of the Thunder's 114-80 defeat by the Grizzlies in Memphis.

Westbrook was tossed with 6:41 remaining in the period after picking up two quick technical fouls for arguing with officials over whether the shot clock should have been reset for the Grizzlies.

"Honestly, it's crazy, man," Westbrook said. "Especially to be ejected like that when I didn't do nothing. I can't even say nothing when I'm getting hammered every time."

Before his exit, Westbrook had 21 points, five rebounds and zero assists. He also had six turnovers.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 31, 2016, with the headline 'James 'fails', Cavs pass late test'. Print Edition | Subscribe