Preview: Cavaliers at Celtics


It`s rare when LeBron James is held under 20 points. The Boston Celtics might be content keeping him under 30.

After a subpar game offensively, James leads the Cleveland Cavaliers into Boston on today as they try for their seventh straight win over the Celtics.

Oddsmakers have the Cavs listed as 4-point favorites and the total is set at 187.

James was held to 19 points - eight below his average - but still helped the Cavaliers (18-12) to an 82-78 victory over Western Conference power San Antonio on Tuesday that completed a season sweep of the Spurs.

It was just the fifth time James has been held under 20 points this season, but the Cavaliers improved to 3-2 in those games.

James now takes on Boston, which he has dominated during Cleveland`s six-game run in the series. The fourth-year star is averaging 37.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 6.8 assists and 2.8 steals in five games during that span.

James scored 38 points - 25 in the second half - and rallied the Cavaliers from a 19-point, fourth-quarter deficit in a wild 94-93 win over the Celtics on Nov. 11 in the teams` first meeting this season.

The Celtics have not beaten the Cavaliers since a 114-107 overtime win on Dec. 18, 2004.

Cleveland beat San Antonio with strong defense, holding the NBA`s second-most accurate shooting team to 10 third-quarter points, a season-low 28 baskets and 38 percent shooting from the field.

"We all showed grit," said Cleveland coach Mike Brown, a former assistant under San Antonio`s Gregg Popovich. "We won the game the right way."

The Cavaliers rank third in the NBA in scoring defense, holding opponents to 91.7 points per game.

Boston (11-19) ended a six-game losing streak and a five-game road trip with an 89-81 win at Portland on Monday.

The Celtics` skid began after they lost leading scorer Paul Pierce, who has aggravated a left foot injury.

"I felt as a team we are starting to adjust to playing without Paul, though it`s not anything you want to get used to," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "You could see them getting it."

Boston was able to win despite being in the unique situation of playing with both types of NBA balls on consecutive days. The Celtics played with the phased-out synthetic ball on Sunday before using the reinstated leather-based ball on Monday, a situation Rivers criticized the league for having happen.

Celtics guard Tony Allen has improved his play in Pierce`s absence. He had 22 points and eight rebounds against the Trail Blazers, and is averaging 21.6 points and 7.0 rebounds in his last three games.

"As a team, we`re getting better," said Boston forward Al Jefferson, who leads the team with 9.7 rebounds per game. "Doc saw it before we could see it. Now, we see it. We`re learning to play together and share the ball."

Jefferson, though, has not played the last four games between the teams and is averaging just 3.5 points and 2.3 rebounds in four lifetime games against the Cavaliers.

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