CLEVELAND — Rajon Rondo and the Boston Celtics weren’t even in the showers when an announcement stirred the few Cavaliers fans who stayed until the bitter end.
“On Thursday night, the Cavs will host the Miami Heat,” the loudspeakers blared.
Your turn, LeBron.
Rondo scored a season-high 23 points with 12 assists and the Celtics shook off some rust from a long holiday weekend for their fourth straight win, 106-87 on Tuesday night over the Cavs, who can now start concentrating on LeBron James’ upcoming visit.
Rondo missed his first three shots before hitting 11 of his next 14 to help the Celtics build a 20-point lead in the fourth. Glen Davis added 17 points, Marquis Daniels 16 and Kevin Garnett 10 rebounds as Boston avenged an early season loss in Cleveland.
Rondo, as is almost always the case, orchestrated the easy win.
“He’s the one who runs our team,” Garnett said.
Anderson Varejao and Daniel Gibson scored 16 apiece for the Cavs, who were held to 39 percent shooting and never got closer than 13 in the fourth.
This was the first game in an emotional week for the Cavs, who will face James as a visitor for the first time on Thursday. The crowd inside Quicken Loans Arena will be turbocharged for the homecoming.
“It will be really hostile,” said Cavs forward J.J. Hickson, who was held to one point by the Celtics. “It’s no secret. He (James) is coming back to where he originally started. It’s going to be a great environment. I’d be lying if I said it’s a normal game.”
Rondo is playing with a tender left hamstring and sore foot, but he hardly seemed to be bothered. Boston coach Doc Rivers intends to monitor the point guard’s minutes going forward, but he left him in for 38 as the Celtics handed the Cavs their seventh loss in 10 games.
When he was replaced with 4:04 left by Von Wafer, Rondo was applauded by everyone on Boston’s bench and got a loving slap on the backside as he walked past Rivers.
Before the game, Cavaliers coach Byron Scott said Rondo belongs in the conversation when debating the league’s premier point guards along with Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Derrick Rose. Rondo didn’t do anything but reinforce Scott’s opinion of him.
On several trips, he simply blew through Cleveland’s defense for easy layups, set up his teammates for easy shots and commanded the floor.
“He did his thing,” Gibson said. “I’ve known him for a long time and there’s not much that separates him from those other guys.”
Leading by 11 at the half, the Celtics, who scored 60 points in the lane, pulled away in the third quarter.
“It was like a layup drill,” Scott said.
Garnett, who slightly tweaked his foot in the period when he stepped on Pierce’s foot, converted a three-point play to make it 77-61. Daniels followed with one of his own, pushing Boston’s lead to 19 and deflating the hopes of Cleveland’s fans.
There was a buzz in the building, and it may not have just been because of the Celtics.
With James set to arrive in less than 48 hours, Cleveland is ramping up for a night the city has awaited since the NBA schedule was announced in August. At halftime, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert said he expects fans to be emotional but under control for the game, which has drawn huge interest. The team will have extra security in place to assure there’s no trouble.
“I’m sure a lot of them will make their feelings known,” Gilbert said. “But as long as everybody plays by the rules and doesn’t go over the top, everything will be fine. I really believe that Cleveland people will do the right thing.”
The Celtics hadn’t played since Friday and they had a mini-controversy during the extended break.
Center Shaquille O’Neal missed practice on Monday. He apologized to Boston’s Big 3 — Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen — before the team came to Cleveland.
O’Neal said after Friday’s game that he misread the message on the grease board in Boston’s locker room and didn’t realize the team was practicing before its flight.
“It was a miscommunication,” he said. “The only thing I saw on the board was flight at 3. That’s all. I never miss practice.”
Notes: Scott and Rivers have been friends since high school, when they faced each other in an All-American game. Rivers said he didn’t see a future coach in Scott. “I noticed a guy who shot all the time and wouldn’t pass the ball,” Rivers joked. “I’m sure he thought the same way. He could just shoot. I was envious of that cannon. I wouldn’t have passed either.” … Celtics G Delonte West had surgery to repair his broken right wrist. Rivers expects West, who played two full seasons with the Cavs, to be out at least two months.