James nears milestone in Cleveland win
CLEVELAND — LeBron James approached another milestone and the Cleveland Cavaliers remained unbeaten.
Just another day of work for the reigning NBA champions in their 128-122 victory over the Boston Celtics on Thursday night.
James scored a season-high 30 points and moved within two points of passing Hakeem Olajuwon for 10th place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.
“It’s always humbling when you’re able to put yourself in any category with guys that laid the path for you and the rest of us,” James said.
Olajuwon had 26,946 points, a total James will likely surpass Saturday night in Philadelphia.
“He’ll get it, hopefully he’ll score two points,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said with a laugh.
The Cavaliers are 5-0 for the first time since 1976-77 when they started 8-0.
Kevin Love scored 26 points, also a season high, while Kyrie Irving added 23 for the Cavaliers. Tristan Thompson recorded a double-double in the first half, finishing with 15 points and 14 rebounds.
Isaiah Thomas scored 30 points and Avery Bradley had 26 for the Celtics, who played without two starters, center Al Horford (concussion) and forward Jae Crowder (sprained left ankle).
James, who was 12 of 22 from the field, scored 20 points in the third quarter after having six at halftime. He also had 12 assists and seven rebounds, and brought the crowd to its feet in the third quarter with a fast break drunk after Irving passed the ball off the backboard.
Asked what the other Cavaliers’ players do when James gets on a roll, Irving said, “Just get out of his way. He’s capable of doing it on any given night. We’ve seen it for Lord knows, how many years?”
The Celtics played the Cavaliers evenly for most of the first quarter, but Cleveland’s ball movement led to a flurry of open shots. The Cavaliers made 11 of 18 3-point attempts in the first half.
“I thought our defense in the first half was porous,” Boston coach Brad Stevens said. “There’s no excuse for that.”
Cleveland also matched the best start for a team James has played on since the Miami Heat were 5-0 in 2011-12 when they swept Oklahoma City in the Finals.
Thomas didn’t miss a free throw in 14 attempts. Jaylen Brown, making his first career start, scored 19 points while Marcus Smart added 14 for Boston.
“We played a game we felt like we could’ve won,” Thomas said. “We didn’t play that well and only lost by six.”
Celtics: Stevens said Horford is feeling better but has no timetable for his return. … Crowder is expected to miss two weeks after being injured in Wednesday’s win over Chicago.
Cavaliers: Love was 12 of 13 at the free throw line. … Cleveland didn’t commit a first-quarter turnover. … G. J.R. Smith crashed to the court after running into a screen from F Jonas Jerebko, but was still called for the foul.
James will wear a Cubs uniform when the Cavaliers play in Chicago on Dec. 2, per terms of his bet on with Dwyane Wade on the World Series. Wade would have worn an Indians jersey had they won the series, which ended with an epic Game 7 at Progressive Field on Wednesday night.
“Obviously to get all the way there and not be able to come out victorious, it hurts,” said James, who attended Game 7. “You can’t say they didn’t give it their all. They gave a great shot.”
The series also caused some debate between Stevens, a Cubs fan, and his wife, Tracy, who is from Rocky River, a Cleveland suburb. Adding to the tension, the Celtics’ flight from Boston to Cleveland on Wednesday night lost its internet connection in the bottom of the 10th inning.
The Cavaliers gave a video tribute to the Indians on the scoreboard during the first timeout.
Celtics: Host Denver on Sunday. Bradley averaged 23.5 points in two games against the Nuggets last season.
Cavaliers: Visit Philadelphia on Saturday. Cleveland has won six straight games over the 76ers, two on the road.