BOSTON — Tristan Thompson’s career highs of 29 points and 17 rebounds weren’t nearly as important to him as the number he helped the Cleveland Cavaliers avoid.
There will be no 11th straight loss for Cleveland.
Thompson and the Cavaliers dominated Boston inside as Cleveland ended its 10-game losing streak by beating the Celtics 97-91 on Friday night.
“During this losing streak, we had a lot of games we should have won, but at the end of the day we ended up taking the L,” Thompson said. “Tonight was our game to win. We knew we had to take it and bring it back to Cleveland.”
It was the second time in two days Thompson took on a leadership role for the Cavaliers. After practice Thursday, he lashed out at critics who blame the Cavaliers’ woes on coach Byron Scott and rumors that he won’t be back for a fourth season.
Thompson called the speculation “bogus,” saying it was the players’ responsibility to work their way out of the slide.
On Friday, he backed up his comments by grabbing every loose ball within reach and leading the Cavaliers to a 58-42 rebounding edge in their first win since March 12. His seven offensive rebounds were just three short of Boston’s team total.
“I just know he was really geared up to play,” Scott said. “Maybe it was some of the things he said. ‘We have to come out and play like men’ — and I thought our guys did that.”
Alonzo Gee also had a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Cavaliers, who avenged their most painful loss of the skid.
Cleveland’s largest lead was 14, the same margin the Cavaliers were up on the Celtics in the fourth quarter of a game last week before Boston rallied and won 92-91 on Jeff Green’s layup at the buzzer.
The Cavaliers held on to this lead — firmly — two days after getting routed by Brooklyn 113-95 in Cleveland.
“I thought they responded perfect,” Scott said. “I thought they were into the game from start to finish. Came out with some aggressiveness, focused and we played hard.”
Wayne Ellington scored 12 points and Kyrie Irving added 11 for Cleveland in his third game back since missing eight with a sprained shoulder.
The Celtics played without team captain Paul Pierce, who was out with a sore ankle.
The move may have cost the slumping Celtics. Boston has dropped eight of 11 and is clinging to the seventh playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
“We missed a lot of open shots, but I also thought we settled,” coach Doc Rivers said.
The Celtics shot well early, but went 6-for-22 in a woeful third quarter and never recovered after the outside shots stopped falling. The Cavaliers were already controlling the inside and outscored Boston 52-38 in the paint.
The Celtics also hurt themselves at the foul line, making 13 of 22 free throws.
“We definitely thought we had an opportunity to win the game there, but we let it slip,” Jason Terry said. “In the second quarter, we built up momentum and for whatever reason we let them back in the game, sent them to the free throw line and gave them some easy baskets in transitions.”
Thompson’s career high in points was 27 against the Nets in March 2012. His rebounding high was 16 against Houston in January.
• The Celtics were without Kevin Garnett, who missed his eighth straight game because of inflammation in his left ankle.
• The Cavaliers outrebounded the Celtics 28-21 in the first half, playing to a 52-all tie after two periods.
• Boston made just eight of 15 foul shots in the first half.
Cavaliers 97, Celtics 91
CLEVELAND (97): Gee 8-17 0-0 16, Thompson 10-17 9-9 29, Zeller 4-9 1-2 9, Irving 4-20 1-1 11, Ellington 5-8 1-2 12, Walton 0-0 0-0 0, Livingston 2-4 3-4 7, Miles 2-7 5-6 9, Speights 0-1 2-2 2, Casspi 0-0 0-0 0, Jones 1-6 0-0 2. Totals 36-89 22-26 97.
BOSTON (91): Green 8-13 6-8 23, Bass 7-14 0-1 14, Wilcox 1-3 0-0 2, Bradley 3-12 2-4 10, Lee 1-5 0-0 2, Williams 4-9 1-2 9, Terry 3-10 0-0 8, Randolph 6-9 4-5 16, Crawford 3-14 0-2 7. Totals 36-89 13-22 91.
Cleveland 26 26 22 23 — 97
Boston 28 24 16 23 — 91
3-Point Goals—Cleveland 3-13 (Irving 2-6, Ellington 1-2, Gee 0-2, Miles 0-3), Boston 6-22 (Terry 2-7, Bradley 2-8, Green 1-1, Crawford 1-4, Williams 0-2). Fouled Out—Randolph. Rebounds—Cleveland 70 (Thompson 17), Boston 49 (Green 9). Assists—Cleveland 16 (Irving 8), Boston 23 (Crawford 5). Total Fouls—Cleveland 20, Boston 24. Technicals—Boston defensive three second. Flagrant Fouls—Terry. A—18,624 (18,624).
• WHO: Cleveland vs. Orlando
• WHEN: Sunday, 6 p.m.
• WHERE: The Q
• TV/RADIO: FS Ohio; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM