BOSTON (AP) LeBron James scored 24 points to lead the Cleveland Cavaliers to an 89-77 victory over the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night in an uneventful rematch of their bruising first-round playoff series last season.
Kevin Love scored 20 with eight rebounds in his first game back in Boston since Kelly Olynyk yanked his shoulder out of socket in the playoffs. Jae Crowder, who took a punch in the jaw from J.R. Smith in the series, scored 14 for the Celtics.
Timofey Mozgov had nine points and a season-high 10 rebounds, scoring seven with five boards in the third quarter when Cleveland turned a five-point deficit into a 10-point lead. The Cavaliers have won three in a row since losing three straight to start the month.
Avery Bradley scored 17 points for Boston, which was back home for the first time since taking the then-unbeaten Golden State Warriors to double overtime. While that Friday night crowd had a playoff atmosphere – it’s the NBA champion Warriors’ only trip to Boston of the season – the visit by James and the Cavaliers was more subdued.
There were thousands of empty seats at the opening jump in the balcony at the new Boston Garden and even down in its lower bowl. And while the arena eventually filled up, the excitement only lasted for three quarters.
Celtics fans booed James all night and got behind their team when Isaiah Thomas drove for a layup that gave Boston a 50-45 lead with 9 minutes left in the third. But Love hit a 3-pointer to start Cleveland on a 12-0 run; James scored six, including a reverse dunk to finish it off.
In all, the Cavaliers scored 17 of 19 points to take a 62-52 lead.
The game was a rematch of the four-game Cleveland playoff sweep, a chippy series that will perhaps best be remembered for the play in which Olynyk yanked Love’s shoulder. Love missed the remainder of the Cavaliers’ playoff run, which took them to the NBA Finals before they lost to the Warriors in six games.
Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving broke his kneecap in the Finals and he hasn’t played since, though coach David Blatt said in Boston that it was just a matter of waiting for the 2011 No. 1 overall draft pick to be 100 percent.
Iman Shumpert, who made his season debut against Orlando on Friday, played 13 1-2 minutes for Cleveland. He scored six points on a pair of 3-pointers. … James had four of Cleveland’s nine turnovers in first half. … The Celtics went 5-for-22 in the third, including 1 of 11 from 3-point range. They made just four of their first 15 shots in the fourth.
Cavaliers: Return home to face the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday night at 8 p.m.
Celtics: Play the Pistons in Detroit at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday night.