Basketball: Recharged Cavs regain top spot

LeBron James (left) of the Cleveland Cavaliers colliding with Boston Celtics forward Amir Johnson during the Cavs' 114-91 victory on Wednesday. James was the linchpin of the victory, with his 36 points establishing his side's dominance.
LeBron James (left) of the Cleveland Cavaliers colliding with Boston Celtics forward Amir Johnson during the Cavs' 114-91 victory on Wednesday. James was the linchpin of the victory, with his 36 points establishing his side's dominance.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

James masterminds victory against Celtics as Cleveland pull ahead, take control in the East

BOSTON • The Cleveland Cavaliers left no doubt about who is on top of the Eastern Conference in the National Basketball Association (NBA).

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

Kevin Love finished with 15 points and 16 rebounds and Kyrie Irving added 19 points for the Cavaliers, who were by far the better side in the highly-anticipated showdown for the No. 1 play-off 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, who hold the head-to-head tie-breaker if the Celtics (50-28) catch the Cavs (51-27) again over the final four games.

"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. They 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 per cent 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 were 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.

They were in command from the second quarter on and rested James and others down the stretch.

Cleveland centre Tristan Thompson did not travel with the club after spraining his right thumb on Tuesday, ending his streak of consecutive games played at 447. The streak started when he was a rookie in February 2012.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 07, 2017, with the headline 'Recharged Cavs regain top spot'. Print Edition | Subscribe