Kyrie Irving Leads Balanced Celtics Past LeBron James, Cavaliers

Alec Nathan@@AlecBNathanFeatured ColumnistJanuary 4, 2018

BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 3: Kyrie Irving #11 of the Boston Celtics handles the ball against the Cleveland Cavaliers on January 3, 2018 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)
Brian Babineau/Getty Images

The Boston Celtics pounced on favorable circumstances and defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 102-88 at TD Garden on Wednesday night. 

While the Celtics (31-10) suited up for the first time since New Year's Eve, the defending Eastern Conference champions looked rather lethargic on the second night of a back-to-back in a hostile environment. 

The Cavaliers (25-13) were also without point guard Isaiah Thomas, who rested after making his 2017-18 debut Tuesday evening in a 127-110 win over the Portland Trail Blazers at Quicken Loans Arena. 

Thomas was in the building, though, and he received a warm welcome in his first trip back to Boston since being traded for Kyrie Irving in August: 

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

IT gets a standing ovation in his return to TD Garden (via @iamjoonlee) https://t.co/yejzJNX72c

On the floor, the Celtics leaned on a variety of scorers young and old to take down a tired Cavs team. 

Rookie Jayson Tatum stood out among that group, finishing with 15 points and five rebounds in another performance that highlighted his seamless adjustment to the NBA, according to BostonSportsJournal.com's Brian Robb: 

Brian Robb @BrianTRobb

Tatum just doesn't have bad games. His consistency is crazy for a 19-year-old.

Second unit staple Terry Rozier was dynamic in his own right and filled it up with a game-high 20 points in 20 minutes off the bench. 

Christopher Gasper @cgasper

The takeover from Terry Rozier. He is important to the Celtics. They need him to provide consistent bench scoring. This is his fifth straight game in double figures -- 16, 15, 13, 14, and 20 and counting.

Fellow swingman Jaylen Brown added 14 points, eight boards and four assists, while Irving was relatively quiet with 11 points on 5-of-14 shooting, including 0-of-5 from three. 

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Jammin' Jaylen 🔨 https://t.co/DSGwii1nc3

The Celtics' double-figure club also featured Al Horford (11 points) and Marcus Smart (15 points).

By comparison, the Cavaliers shot 34.8 percent from the field and floundered, with few shooters finding their stroke against the Celtics' second-ranked scoring defense. 

LeBron James managed a respectable 19 points, seven rebounds and six dimes, but reinforcements proved invisible. 

Dwyane Wade (five points) lagged with tired legs, while Kevin Love was ruled out in the second half after tweaking his right ankle, according to Fox Sports Ohio's Allie Clifton

But as ESPN.com's Dave McMenamin noted, the Cavaliers and their fans likely won't lose sleep over the loss: 

Dave McMenamin @mcten

Cavs fans be like ... https://t.co/B3avGNqeXd

Cleveland's five-game road trip continues Saturday against the Orlando Magic. The Celtics, on the other hand, will try to rip off a fifth straight win Friday when they host the Minnesota Timberwolves. 


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