CLEVELAND — Rajon Rondo scored a season-high 23 points with 12 assists to lead the Boston Celtics to their fourth straight win, 106-87 on Tuesday night over the Cleveland Cavaliers, 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.
Anderson Varejao and Daniel Gibson scored 16 apiece for the Cavs. On Thursday, James will make his first trip into Cleveland since announcing this summer he would sign with Miami.
Rondo’s 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.
Leading by 11 at half, the Celtics pulled away from the Cavs in the third quarter.
Garnett, who slightly rolled his ankle in the period when he stepped on Pierce’s foot, concerted 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’s fans have been waiting for 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.
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 it’s 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.”
Pierce picked up his second personal foul with just over two minutes elapsed in the first quarter and had to go to the bench.
The Cavs pounced and built a 17-8 lead before Rondo began to do what Rondo always does against Cleveland.
He scored 11 straight points to close the opening quarter as the Celtics pulled within 23-21. Boston finally passed Cleveland on Nate Robinson’s jumper to go ahead 30-29.
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 successful surgery to repair his broken right wrist. Has a team ever reported an unsuccessful surgery? Rivers expects West, who played two full seasons with the Cavs, to be out at least two months.
76ers 88, Trail Blazers 79
PHILADELPHIA — Elton Brand scored 18 points while Jrue Holiday and Andres Nocioni added 11 each to help the Philadelphia 76ers beat the Portland Trail Blazers 88-79 on Tuesday night.
Philadelphia trailed 72-70 midway through the fourth, before going on a 15-4 run that put the game away with 1:50 left. Andre Iguodala, who entered the game averaging 14.8 points, was held to seven — although four came in the fourth quarter.
Wesley Matthews scored 26 points and LaMarcus Aldridge added 20 for the Blazers, who struggled again in the fourth quarter.
They managed only 13 fourth-quarter points in a 97-78 home loss to New Orleans on Friday, then collected just 18 points in the final period in a loss to New Jersey.
The Blazers were even worse on Tuesday, scoring just 11 points in the final period. Portland was 4-for-20 from the field in the period. It was the second game of a four-game East Coast stretch for the Blazers, who have dropped four straight.
The teams played evenly through the first two quarters, with Philadelphia holding a 47-46 lead at halftime. The Blazers built an eight-point lead thanks to a 10-1 run to start the third quarter, their biggest advantage of the game.
Many of those baskets came on layups, as Portland consistency fed the ball inside. The Sixers adjusted and forced the Trail Blazers into lower percentage shots.
Notes: The Sixers assigned Craig Brackins to their NBA Development League affiliate, the Springfield Armor. The rookie had appeared in one game this season, scoring six points in 10 minutes at Toronto on Nov. 24. … Swingman Jason Kapono returned after missing four games due to personal reasons. … Portland centers Joel Przybilla missed his second straight game with the flu.