BOSTON • The statistics sheet belonged to LeBron James but the game belonged to Isaiah Thomas and the Boston Celtics.
James registered the 49th triple-double of his career, but it was Boston, behind more fourth-quarter heroics from Thomas, who got the last laugh on Wednesday night in the National Basketball Association (NBA).
"Nobody holds me in check... I average 30 points for a reason," Thomas said after taking over down the stretch to lead the Celtics to a 103-99 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Boston's little big man scored five points in the final 49.4sec and the Celtics, who had lost three of four since the All-Star break, beat the Cavaliers for their first win in three tries this season against the NBA champions.
"I think it's big for us, especially going on to the West Coast. This needs to carry over for us," said Avery Bradley, who hit a big three-pointer late and played some key defence in his second game back after missing 18 straight with an Achilles injury.
Thomas, who had been in a four-game shooting slump, finished with 31 points (92 in three games against Cleveland (41-18) this season) and five assists, while Jae Crowder had 17 points and 10 rebounds.
Al Horford just missed his second career triple-double, finishing with nine points, 10 rebounds and matching a career high with 10 assists. Marcus Smart added nine points and eight assists off the bench.
James, averaging more points against Boston than any other team, finished with 28 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists, while Kyrie Irving also scored 28 and Tristan Thompson grabbed 13 rebounds.
There were 24 lead changes and 19 ties - and the Celtics' biggest lead was four, the final margin. They improved to 16-0 at home when leading after three quarters.
"It definitely felt like a play-off game," Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said.
"The atmosphere's great. Whenever you come and play in Boston, the atmosphere is unbelievable. The physicality was good. Everybody competed, it was a good game."
James, who had triple-doubles against the Celtics (39-22) in 2006 (regular season) and 2010 (play-offs), said: "Great game. Executed well by both teams. They made a couple more shots than we did down the stretch, but nothing bad about tonight."
In the fourth quarter, James, hustling for a loose ball, had a mini collision with Super Bowl winners New England Patriots' coach Bill Belichick, seated in the first row under the basket.
Asked if that might have been the greatest collision of champions ever, James said: "I don't know if I'm on his level, but I definitely slowed up because I knew it was him. I'm not taking no legend out. I'm not doing that. I need to keep seeing him win, so that's pretty cool for me."
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