CLEVELAND, March 15 – LeBron James scored 30 points to spark the Cleveland Cavaliers past Boston 104-93 on Sunday in an NBA showdown of Eastern Conference division leaders.
"King James" also grabbed eight rebounds and passed out seven assists as the Cavaliers, already assured of a playoff spot, improved their NBA-best record to 52-15, stretching their Central division lead over Milwaukee to 15 games.
Ray Allen led Boston with 20 points while Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce each added 18 points and Rajon Rondo contributed 16 for the Celtics, who fell to 41-24, still 8 1/2 games above second-place Toronto in the Atlantic division.
Anderson Varejao came off the bench to score 17 points for Cleveland, which also had 15 points and 12 rebounds from Antawn Jamison, back after missing a game with a sore knee, and 14 points from Mo Williams.
James scored 24 points in the second half as the Cavaliers beat the Celtics decisively for the second time in a month. Shaquille O’Neal suffered a thumb injury in last month’s victory and is unlikely to return until the playoffs.
The Cavaliers went on a 9-0 run to open the fourth quarter while defensively keeping Boston 0-for-8 from the field during the run.
"Defensively, we were awesome in the fourth," James said. "Fourth-quarter time is our staple and that’s when we turn up the aggression. That’s exactly what we did."
James was poked accidentally in the left eye by Garnett in the third quarter and struggled the rest of the way, complaining of a headache after the game.
"I was lucky to be able to finish the game," he said. "It stayed blurry for about 15 minutes. It wore off close to the end of the fourth quarter."
Varejao impressed Celtics coach Doc Rivers.
"I thought one guy completely dominated the game and that was Varejao," said Rivers. "Loose balls, activity, getting under our skin, he’s doing what he should do. That was very frustrating. He was so active. He moved his feet and we didn’t."