Los Angeles (AFP) – The Boston crowd came out to celebrate Paul Pierce on Sunday — but LeBron James and his new Cleveland supporting cast had other ideas as the Cavaliers routed the Celtics 121-99.
James shook off a first quarter leg injury to finish with 24 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds for the Cavaliers who were one of the busiest teams at the NBA trading deadline.
Cleveland acquired four players and dealt away six others as they attempt to make a push for their fourth straight NBA finals.
“We got some players that are pretty smart and they picked it up like they had been here all year,” said James, who played just 28 minutes.
Despite the home team’s loss, the night belonged to Pierce and his family as they got to hear tribute videos from Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson and see his number 34 raised to the rafters of the Boston Garden arena.
“It definitely gave me chills, especially with LeBron out there,” Pierce said afterwards. “I wanted to be out there.”
Pierce, who retired at the end of last season, watched the game from his sideline seat, waiting for the postgame ceremony. But when the Cavaliers raced to a 27-point lead halfway through the final quarter the crowd couldn’t hold back chanting “We want Paul Pierce.”
James scored 13 of his 24 points in the second quarter. He chipped in eight during a 13-2 burst that turned a one-point deficit into a double-digit lead. The Celtics made it 64-55 on the first basket of the third quarter but never even got close for the rest of the game.
James collided with Aron Baynes with about five minutes left in the first quarter and hobbled to the sidelines. After receiving treatment on his right leg he returned with nine minutes left in the half and immediately picked up where he left off.
In their first appearances since being acquired at the trade deadline, Jordan Clarkson scored 17 points, Rodney Hood had 15, George Hill had 12 and Larry Nance scored five points. The foursome practised with Cleveland for the first time on Saturday.
“All of our new guys performed and played well,” coach Tyronn Lue said. “So that’s a good sign.”
The Celtics have lost three of four while the Cavaliers have won three straight.
Terry Rozier scored 21 points with nine assists and Kyrie Irving scored 18 against his former teammates before sitting out the final quarter in the loss.
In Charlotte, DeMar DeRozan scored a team-high 25 points and CJ Miles came off the bench to score 24 points as the Raptors notched their fifth straight victory with a 123-103 win over the Charlotte Hornets.
Head coach Dwane Casey became the first coach in franchise history to record 300 wins.