for this game

Celtics take advantage of hobbled James, sink Cavs

Feb 28, 2008 - 4:37 AM By Tony Lee PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

BOSTON (Ticker) - The Cleveland Cavaliers made a big splash at the trade deadline in order to hang with the heavies of the Eastern Conference. It won't matter much if LeBron James has nights like this.

Kevin Garnett scored 18 points and grabbed 11 rebounds and Ray Allen scored a team-high 22 points as the Celtics took advantage of a hobbled and inaccurate James in a 92-87 victory over the Cavaliers on Wednesday night.

Cleveland coach Mike Brown was ejected late in the third quarter for arguing a foul call and wasn't around to watch his club fall to 2-2 since acquiring veterans Ben Wallace and Joe Smith and former Celtics Delonte West and Wally Szczerbiak in the blockbuster deal last week.

James sprained his right ankle with over four minutes left in the first half while landing after making a layup. He said afterward that he stepped on Paul Pierce's foot.

"I have had my share of ankle injuries and the first thing I thought was, 'Not again, not another one to go down for our team,'" James said. "We have been hit with the injury bug, the cold bug, guys have been walking around here sick and injured. I didn't want to go down."

Fortunately, X-rays were negative and James returned to start the second half, burying a jumper seconds in to pull Cleveland within 47-42.

But the league's leading scorer made just 1-of-8 shots through the rest of the quarter and, by the time the dust settled following Brown's flap with the officials, Boston was ahead, 75-60. The Celtics led by as many as 16 in the fourth.

Boston coach Doc Rivers saw a chance to take charge with James hurt.

"Yeah, I thought it bothered him," Rivers said of James' ankle. "The beginning of the third, he clearly was settling for jumpers."

James scored 26 points on 7-of-24 shooting from the floor, matching the fewest field goals he's had in a game since he made just five shots against Indiana on December 11. He also recorded just four assists, his fewest in eight games.

The post-trade adjustment may have something to do with it.

"It'll take a couple of weeks," said James of getting everyone on the same page offensively. "It's kind of a learn-on-the-fly thing."

The Celtics' only new addition was veteran forward P.J. Brown, who was in street clothes after being signed by the club earlier in the day. Their biggest obstacle was a quick turnaround from Monday's road-trip finale in Los Angeles.

"Yesterday we said this is going to feel like a road game and when you have been in the league long enough, you know that when you come back home that first game feels like one of the toughest games," Garnett said. "It was just that."

Garnett, who shot just 41 percent (27-for-66) from the floor on the Celtics' five-game road trip, was playing his first home game since January 25 when he strained an abdominal muscle.

According to Rivers, Garnett looked slow at times but finished 8-of-14 from the floor and provided the play of the game with a no-look feed to Kendrick Perkins for a dunk that made it 69-54 - after which he waved the crowd to its feet.

Leon Powe and rookie Glen Davis combined for 22 points off the bench for Boston, which has won three straight since opening the road swing with its first three-game losing streak of the season.

Allen finished 7-of-10 and is 20-of-30 (67 percent) from the field during the winning streak.

"When I wasn't hitting shots (in early January) I wanted to hit, I really didn't question it so even now I don't question it," Allen said.

The Cavaliers were down 12 points when James was hurt, but responded with a 7-0 burst, capped by a 3-pointer by West to make it 39-34. They never got any closer and failed to become the first team to defeat the Celtics three times this season.

Allen had seven points and Pierce five in a 20-10 burst in the third that Garnett and Perkins ended with their highlight material.

West scored nine of his 20 points in the closing moments to make it respectable. Szczerbiak added 12 points for Cleveland.

Brown said he was upset at a non-call against Anderson Varejao, and lost his cool moments later when James fouled Powe on a layup.

"I thought that Andy drove to the hole and he got bumped," Brown said. "I thought if they called a foul on that play down there, then Andy deserved the call also. That's all."