BOSTON -- No apologies.
Just another Cleveland victory.
LeBron James scored 24 points and Kevin Love returned to Boston to score 20 with eight rebounds on Tuesday night, helping the Cavaliers beat the Celtics 89-77 in an uneventful rematch of last season's bruising -- but one-sided -- first-round playoff series.
It was Cleveland's first trip back to the new Boston Garden since Love's shoulder was yanked out of the socket by Boston's Kelly Olynyk in the finale of the Cavaliers' four-game sweep. Jae Crowder, who took a punch in the jaw from J.R. Smith in the series, scored 14 for the Celtics.
"Time heals all wounds," said Love, who had no exchange with Olynyk during the game. "I'll remember my first playoff run and that fourth game being particularly tough. But as time goes on it'll be another game against a really good team."
The midseason rematch was physical but without the rowdiness of the playoff series or even the emotion of Boston's double-overtime loss to the then-unbeaten Golden State Warriors last week.
"We knew it was going to be that type of game tonight, just coming off the playoff series that we had with them," James said. "And, it's our first time seeing them. We were able to answer the call."
Timofey Mozgov had nine points and a season-high 10 rebounds, scoring seven with five boards in the third quarter when Cleveland turned a five-point deficit into a 10-point lead. The Cavaliers have won three in a row since losing three straight to start the month.
Avery Bradley scored 17 points for Boston, which was back home for the first time since nearly ending the Warriors' unbeaten start. While that Friday night crowd had a playoff atmosphere -- it's the NBA champion Warriors' only trip to Boston of the season -- the visit by James and the Cavaliers was more subdued.
There were thousands of empty seats in the building at the opening jump, and while the arena eventually filled up, the excitement only lasted for three quarters.
Celtics fans who booed James all night rallied behind their own team when Isaiah Thomas drove for a layup that gave Boston a 50-45 lead with 9 minutes left in the third. But Love hit a 3-pointer to start Cleveland on a 12-0 run; James scored six, including a reverse dunk to finish it off.
In all, the Cavaliers scored 17 of 19 points to take a 62-52 lead. Love and James combined to score eight straight points midway through the fourth quarter to open a 15-point Cleveland lead after the Celtics made it a 79-72 game.
"At the end of the game, when you're trying to come back, you're trying to whittle the lead away, they can just get a matchup they like and then keep you at bay because of their talent," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said.
The Cavs' last trip to Boston will best be remembered for the play in which Olynyk yanked on Love's arm, knocking him out of the remainder of the Cavaliers' playoff run. Cleveland reached the NBA Finals before losing to the Warriors in six games.
AUDIENCE WITH THE KING
During a break, the Celtics honored Aaron, Miller, 16, a local high school student who was born with severe brain damage and was told by doctors he would be physically and mentally paralyzed for life. But after "thousands of hours" of surgery and physical therapy, he competes on his school's golf and basketball teams.
James came over and patted Miller on the head, bringing a huge smile to his face.
"I saw what he had been through, and I see where he is now," James said. "It wasn't for you guys. It's not for the fans. It was for him."
Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving hasn't played since breaking his kneecap in the Finals, but coach David Blatt said in Boston that it was just a matter of waiting for the 2011 No. 1 overall draft pick to be 100 percent.
Iman Shumpert, who made his season debut against Orlando on Friday, played 13 1-2 minutes for Cleveland and scored six points on a pair of 3-pointers.
"We prefer to err on the side of caution," Blatt said Friday morning. "We've come out this far; we've played without our starting backcourt for the first few months of the season. But there's still a lot of the season left."
James had four of Cleveland's nine turnovers in first half. ... The Celtics went 5-for-22 in the third, including 1 of 11 from 3-point range. They made just four of their first 15 shots in the fourth. ... Olynyk apologized to Love and the two have said there are no hard feelings. Crowder wanted an apology from Smith, who declined.
Cavaliers: Return home to face the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday night at 8 p.m.
Celtics: Play the Pistons in Detroit at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday night.
- Mark Ayotte
- Eric Dalen
- Ron Garretson