James & love inspire in win

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (right) and guard J.R. Smith celebrating against the Boston Celtics during the second half at TD Garden. The Cavs beat the Celtics 89-77.
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (right) and guard J.R. Smith celebrating against the Boston Celtics during the second half at TD Garden. The Cavs beat the Celtics 89-77.PHOTO: REUTERS

Duo lead Cavs to third straight win, point guard Kyrie Irving to return from injury soon

BOSTON • The Cleveland Cavaliers, closing in on the return of point guard Kyrie Irving, won their third straight game when they beat Boston 89-77 in the National Basketball Association on Tuesday.

Forward LeBron James capped a 12-0 third-quarter run with a reverse dunk as the Cavs took control.

James, who finished with 24 points, had six during that run and also capped a 10-3 fourth-quarter spurt that made things comfortable for Cleveland (16-7).

He shot 10-for-20 from the floor and committed five turnovers, also grabbing seven rebounds.

Avery Bradley scored 17 points to top the Celtics, who led 46-40 at half-time but shot only 26 per cent in the second half and managed only 31 points after half-time in a physical contest.

"It's fun to have that type of competition," James said.

"We had to take the fight to them and we were ready for it. We love physical games. We can play any type of game. We knew it was going to be physical and we answered the call."

The Celtics, back home for the first time since nearly ending the Golden State Warriors' unbeaten start, closed a 13-point deficit to seven.

But Cleveland forward Kevin Love hit six points and James two in an 8-0 run that sent fans heading for the exits.

Love, whose 2015 post-season ended when he was injured by Boston forward Kelly Olynyk in the opening round of last season's play-offs, scored 20 points and added eight rebounds and five assists.

It was a different Cav who got injured this time, as guard Iman Shumpert, who missed the first 21 games while recovering from wrist surgery, left the game with a groin complaint.

"Honestly, (I am) a little bit concerned," Cavaliers coach David Blatt said of Shumpert.

"I have no idea what the extent is but given what our recent history is, I'm concerned."

On a brighter note, the Cavs are close to getting Irving back for his season debut after his recovery from a knee injury.

Blatt went out of his way to credit James' defence as a key to the victory.

"It seems like there's nothing we don't ask of him that he doesn't answer for us," he said.

"That's why he's the greatest player in the game."

Talking about the team defence, James said: "That's one of our staples we stress every single day - defending at a high level and trying to move the ball offensively.

"In the first half, we allowed them to get to some of their spots. Wasn't as aggressive, but we still played very well.

"They had 46 points at half-time. But in the second half, we just locked down and then we started moving the ball. We just kind of kept them off base."

]REUTERS,  AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 17, 2015, with the headline 'JAMES & LOVE INSPIRE IN WIN'. Print Edition | Subscribe