BOSTON • Isaiah Thomas has a knack for big performances in Boston, and Cleveland certainly could have used one from him on Wednesday night.
However, he was resting on the second night of back-to-back National Basketball Association (NBA) matches after making his Cavaliers debut on Tuesday, and Cleveland came up short without him in a 102-88 loss.
Thomas, who rose to stardom during his three seasons with Boston before the Celtics traded him to the Cavaliers in a deal that netted Kyrie Irving in the off-season, sat on the bench as his team-mates struggled against his old team.
Terry Rozier scored 20 points off the Celtics bench to lead six double-figure scorers. Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart each scored 15, Jaylen Brown had 14 and Al Horford added 11. Irving finished with 11 points, nine rebounds and six assists as Boston (31-10) won their fourth straight game.
"That shows what type of team we are," Rozier said of the Celtics' scoring depth after they avenged a 102-99 opening-night loss at Cleveland in which Gordon Hayward suffered a broken left ankle in his Boston debut. "From day one, we've always had that next man up mentality and we've kept it going."
LeBron James scored 19 points, seven rebounds and six assists as Cleveland (25-13) suffered their fourth loss in their last five games.
"Their defence was very good. They were very in tune to what we wanted to do execution-wise offensively," James said.
"I don't know who we are and who we can be until we get it back consistently.
"We haven't played well as of late so we are trying to figure that out as well. We will be fine, though."
In a rematch of last season's Eastern Conference Finals, Boston extended their 55-47 half-time lead to as many as 20 points in the third quarter. They took an 81-68 advantage into the fourth and the Cavs were outscored 21-20 in the final 12 minutes.
During the quarter break, Thomas was shown on the video board and was greeted with a booming standing ovation from the Boston fans. He pounded his chest in acknowledgement of the crowd and also exchanged hugs and smiles with his former team-mates.
"The fans are everything here. Boston is definitely in my heart and will always be some type of home for me," said the guard, who missed the Cavaliers' first 36 games recovering from a hip injury.
"I was out for seven months. There was no way I was going to (make my return) against Boston (until I'm fully healthy)."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
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