CLEVELAND (AP) — LeBron James scored 20 of his 28 points in the second half, and Cleveland had seven other players in double figures as the Cavaliers shook off a slow start for a 120-103 win over the Boston Celtics on Saturday night.
The Cavs were down 18 points in the first quarter but regrouped and stopped Boston’s winning streak at five games.
Kyrie Irving added 21 points and Iman Shumpert busted out of a shooting slump to add 12 points and a career-high 16 rebounds for Cleveland, which moved 2 1/2 games ahead of Toronto for the best record in the Eastern Conference.
James also passed Tim Duncan for 14th place on the NBA’s career scoring list. He added 11 rebounds and eight assists.
Isaiah Thomas led the Celtics with 27 points and Jared Sullinger had 17 with 13 rebounds.
The Cavs were clinging to a seven-point lead in the fourth when they opened some distance over the up-and-coming Celtics with a 7-0 run triggered by a 3-pointer by J.R. Smith. On Cleveland’s next possession, James blasted down the lane for a layup and Shumpert capped the spurt with a jumper. Smith, who added 14 points, later knocked down a 3-pointer with 2:03 left, ending any thought Boston had of a late comeback.
On their previous visit to Cleveland, the Celtics rallied in the final seconds to beat the Cavs 104-103 on Feb. 5. Avery Bradley hit a game-winning 3-pointer from the corner at the horn for Boston, which trailed by four with 7 seconds remaining.
“Let’s be honest, we were really lucky to win here last time,” coach Brad Stevens said. “That was a very fortunate deal.”
Stevens said the Celtics would have to play better this time, and his team came out determined not to fall behind.
Boston came out with confidence and quickly took control, opening an 18-point lead in the first quarter. The Celtics were still up by 14 midway through the second quarter when the Cavs, who gave up 35 points in the first 21 minutes, began to buckle down on defense.
Irving and Smith made 3-pointers and Iman Shumpert, who came in 1 for 11 in his last four games behind the arc, knocked down a deep shot from the corner to tie it 53-all.
James, though, scored 13 in the third quarter, helping the Cavs open 91-83 lead going into the fourth.
Celtics: Boston began a stretch of six straight games against probable playoff teams. After the Cavs, the Celtics face Memphis, Houston, Indiana, Oklahoma City and Toronto. … Stevens is as competitive as they come and the former Butler coach said it’s never easy for him to shake a loss. “I don’t know if it’s a college thing or a pro thing, I remember every loss vividly,” he said. “Even if it’s Scrabble with the family.” … C Kelly Olynyk missed his ninth straight game with a sprained right shoulder. Stevens believes Olynyk, who separated Love’s shoulder in last year’s playoffs, will return to practice “soon” but would not give a timetable. … Thomas is one of six players this season averaging at least 20 points and 6.5 assists.
Cavaliers: James scored in double figures for the 700th straight regular-season game. His streak began on Jan. 6, 2007. Michael Jordan holds the NBA record, scoring at least 10 points in 866 consecutive games. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar did it 787 times in a row. … C Timofey Mozgov was nailed in the throat by an elbow from Amir Johnson, who was called for a Flagrant 1 foul in the third quarter. … James came in needing 17 points to pass Duncan (26,366). Next up for James is John Havlicek (26,395).