CLEVELAND, May 4 – Ray Allen scored 22 points and the Boston Celtics beat Cleveland 104-86 on Monday to level their best-of-seven second round NBA Eastern Conference playoff series at one victory each.Kevin Garnett added 18 points and 10 rebounds for Boston and Rasheed Wallace came off the bench to contribute 17 points while Rajon Rondo matched a Celtics playoff record with 19 assists and Paul Pierce scored 14 points.
The Cavaliers, 10-0 in playoff series after winning the opener as they did against the Celtics, now face games three and four on Friday and Sunday in Boston.
One day after being named the NBA Most Valuable Player for the second season in a row, new concerns were raised about a sore right elbow for James as the Celtics overpowered the Cavaliers, who won an NBA-best 61 games this season.
James led Cleveland with 24 points but hit only 7-of-15 from the field and joined his teammates in struggling at the free throw line.
Boston seized a 91-66 lead, the largest any team had owned at Cleveland all season, before the Cavaliers struck back with a 15-0 run, keeping the Celtics scoreless for 5:30 and trimming the deficit to 91-81.
Paul Pierce snapped the drought for the Celtics and Boston awoke from the slump to finish off the Cavaliers over the final 3:28 despite the rally.
"We were playing the clock instead of the game," Rondo said. "We were looking at the clock instead of the score. We stopped pushing the ball up and lost our tempo."
The Celtics slammed shut the door on a comeback before Cleveland could seize any momentum ahead of game three, which is four days away but important to Boston, which swiped the home court edge and can win three at home to advance.
"It’s important to do the same things we did in the first three quarters and the way we closed the game out," Rondo said.
Before the game, NBA commissioner David Stern said he hopes superstar playmaker James remains with the Cavaliers despite looking at free agent deals once the season is over.
"Hopefully he’ll stay," Stern said. "That’s the way the system is designed."
The current union deal allows teams to pay more money and add an extra year on contracts to retain free agents.
"That’s the way it should be," Stern said. "It allows teams to keep their own players."