Cavs school Celtics, trim deficit in Eastern Conference finals

Los Angeles (AFP) –


LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers thrashed the Boston Celtics 116-86 on Saturday, powering their way back into their NBA Eastern Conference finals.

The Cavaliers trimmed the deficit in the best-of-seven series to 2-1 -- avoiding the 0-3 hole from which no NBA team has returned to win a series. They'll try to even things up when they host game four on Monday.

The Cavaliers, trying to return to the NBA Finals for a fourth straight year, insisted after two double-digit defeats in Boston that things would be different on their home floor.

They wasted no time in making it so, racing to a 12-4 lead midway through the first quarter, which they ended leading 32-17.

By then, James and George Hill had already scored more than 10 points apiece, and half a dozen Cavaliers players finished by scoring in double digits.

James led the way with 27 points, 12 rebounds and five assists along with two steals and three blocked shots.

But James, whose 42-point triple double was in vain in game two, got plenty of support in a game in which Cleveland never trailed.

Kyle Korver scored 14 points off the bench. Hill and Kevin Love scored 13 apiece, JR Smith chipped in 11 and Tristan Thompson scored 10.

"We were really good," James said. "We had our focus and offensively and defensively we made plays."

Hill and Smith came into the contest having been outscored by Boston's Terry Rozier and Jaylen Brown 72-12 over the first two games.

Brown, who scored 23 points in each of the first two games, finished with 10 points and five fouls. He didn't score at all until the second quarter. Rozier scored 13, but connected on just five of 12 shots from the floor.

"I thought everybody came in and contributed in some way," said Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue. "So it was good for us to have everybody touch the basketball and play well."