LeBron James wasn't supposed to come back to Boston as a Cavalier. The last time he was at the Garden in a Cavs jersey, the Celtics sent him packing in the 2010 playoffs. That was a fitting end for Boston fans. Then this summer happened. And in his return to Boston as a Cav, James scored a season-high 41 points, including a 7-0 run on his own with just over a minute to play to take a two-point lead. The Cavs held on to win, 122-121, after trailing by 19 in the fourth quarter.
It was a big win for Cleveland, who looked lifeless with a quarter to play. Rajon Rondo and the Celtics had their way with Cleveland in the third, outscoring them 42-25 to take a 17-point lead. The Cavs interior defense was nonexistent. Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger, who ended the night with 21 and 19 points respectively, outplayed the Cleveland bigs while Rondo did as he pleased with the basketball, dishing out 15 assists through three quarters.
Rondo opened the fourth quarter with his 16th assist as Tyler Zeller gave the C's a 19-point lead, but it would be Rondo's last. Cleveland outscored the Celtics by 18 in the final frame to pick up the win. James scored eight of Cleveland's last nine points and the Celtics' offense went stagnant. Rondo had a chance to win it with seven seconds left, but failed to even get a shot off before the buzzer after the Celtics couldn't get him open with a brutal isolation play. Rondo ended the night with a very Rondo stat line: 6 points, 16 assists, 8 rebounds and just 4 turnovers.
But the Cavs' Big Three played well, too: James had 7 assists and 4 boards to go with his 41 points, Kyrie Irving added 27 points and Kevin Love had 12 points and 15 rebounds. Plus, Love found James for their nightly full-court assist and dunk:
Beating the Celtics may not seem like a marquee win for this Cavs team, but make no mistake, this win was huge. They showed resilience after being 19 down and buckled down in the fourth quarter. Defense was the main issue for the Cavs through the first three quarters, but they clamped down in the fourth and overcame a solid team effort by the C's -- seven Celtics scored in double figures and Rondo only scored 6.
And LeBron James was the LeBron James Cleveland needs. He can't be expected to play hero ball every regular season game, but it makes things a lot easier for the Cavs when he does.
Three Other Things We Learned
GIF: Sixers coach Brett Brown gets a technical foul for kicking ball up 3 with less than a minute left in the game!! http://t.co/XGuSU7Hx90— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) November 15, 2014
That's a big no-no. He was whistled for a technical foul. But Harden missed the free throw, so the 76ers still had a good chance to win, they were up one with the ball. Then, Michael Carter-Williams turned it over and Harden scored a barely-contested layup with nine seconds to go. Carter-Williams missed a jumper and the 76ers lost, 88-87. Philadelphia may say it isn't trying to lose, but it doesn't appear that the 76ers are trying to win, either.
It was a big week for monster first halves. The Trail Blazers put up 84 against the Nuggets on Wednesday. Then the Mavericks dropped 73 against the 76ers on Thursday. New Orleans joined the party on Friday, netting 80 in the first half against Minnesota. The Pelicans shot 72 percent from the field in the first half and led by 36. They set team records for points and field goal percentage in a half. The Pelicans didn't slow down too much in the second half, winning 139-91.
Veterans Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant are having different years. Tim Duncan is fresh off an NBA title and his Spurs seem to be hitting their stride. Plus, he became the 19th player in NBA history to score 25,000 career points. He also joined Kareem Abdul-Jabbar one of only two players with 25,000 points, 14,000 rebounds and 2,800 blocks. And the Spurs beat Los Angeles by 13. Kobe, on the other hand, made only one field goal all night, shooting 1-14 to score nine points. The Lakers are now 1-8. Yikes.
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Play of the Night
5 Fun things:
TNT put Charles Barkley in the Kim Kardashian photo. We wish it would have broken the Internet.
The NBA released their Christmas day uniforms. The big news: Player's first names will be on the jerseys. Sadly, The Panda's Friend won't be around for a jersey with "The" on the back.