CLEVELAND - It may not have been a statement game, but the Cavaliers sent the Boston Celtics a very clear message Tuesday night at sold-out Quicken Loans Arena:
Cleveland - not Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and the rest of the guys in green uniforms and black hightops - is the defending Eastern Conference champion.
With the threesome of LeBron James, Drew Gooden and Zydrunas Ilgauskas badly outplaying the Celtics` highly publicized trio, the Cavaliers defeated the Celtics 109-104 in overtime.
"It`s no statement game," James said after putting up 38 points, four rebounds and 13 assists. "We just want to get wins. It`s November. There are no statement wins in November."
Still, Cleveland (9-6) recorded its fourth straight victory and fifth in the last six games, while the Celtics (11-2) lost for just the second time this season.
The Cavaliers got that victory because of James, Gooden (24 points, 13 rebounds) and Ilgauskas (15 points, 14 rebounds, five assists, four blocks), who combined for 77 points, 31 rebounds, 18 assists and seven blocks. Allen (29 points, seven rebounds, five assists), Garnett (19, five and five) and Pierce (16, six and five) accounted for 64 points, 18 rebounds, 15 assists and six blocks.
Even more important, the three Cleveland players combined to go 28-of-49 from the field, while the three Celtics were 23-of-54.
"We don`t want any tag. We don`t want any Big Three or whatever," James said. "Z is playing career basketball, Drew is getting better and I`m doing my part."
James, who was serenaded with "MVP" chants while shooting free throws in the closing seconds, more than did his part in overtime, when he scored 11 points. He drove aggressively to the hoop on the first possession of the five-minute session, then blocked Allen`s shot at the other end.
With Garnett getting just five rebounds in 44 minutes and Pierce and Allen combining to go 15-of-40 from the field, the much-ballyhooed Celtics could not keep pace with the low-key Cavaliers.
"We always talk second," said James, who was 11-of-25 from the field and 14-of-15 at the line. "We never start anything. We let our game speak for itself."
Gooden found the best way to respond to Garnett`s constant yapping, making eight straight shots in the third period, when the Cavaliers hit 80 percent from the field as a team (12-of-15). In the midst of that streak, the power forward put his hands up and wiggled his fingers, his signal for "making it rain" jumpers.
"There was a lot of trash-talking out there," said Gooden, who finished 11-of-15 from the field. "I had some time to think about it at halftime and I told myself what I was going to do."
The Cavaliers also got 16 points from Sasha Pavlovic, who tied the game at 92 on a clutch 3-pointer with 59 seconds left in the fourth quarter, meaning four players accounted for 93 of their points. They needed all that because starting point guard Daniel Gibson was
3-of-11 from the field and the bench was woeful, providing only eight points in 42 minutes.
"We kept our poise," Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. "We kept our composure. We kept competing whether we were up, down or the score was tied."
The score was tied at 92 and the shot clock was winding down when a desperate Allen drove the lane and dribbled the ball off his leg, but Pavlovic was called for a highly questionable foul with 23.1 seconds left in regulation. Allen, a .917 shooter at the line coming in, promptly missed both shots.
James then held the ball inside the midcourt line as the clock ticked down, finally dribbling right and missing a
20-footer as time expired.
"We`re going to live and die with him because he`s won many a ballgame for us," Brown said.
James won another with his OT performance, giving the Cavaliers some momentum as they prepare to play the Detroit Pistons tonight at The Palace of Auburn Hills, while also reminding the Celtics they haven`t won anything just yet.
"That was fun," Gooden said. "I like that type of atmosphere when it`s competitive out there. It`s even better when you win."
All five Cleveland starters played at least 43 minutes.
* After making 13 3-pointers in each of their two previous games, the Cavaliers were 5-of-20 from long range against the Celtics.
* The last time a player made eight or more field goals in a quarter without a miss, as Gooden did against Boston, was on March 6, 2005, when Mike Sweetney made nine in the first period for the New York Knicks. The last Cavalier was Chris Gatling, who went 9-of-9 in the first quarter on Jan. 10, 2001.
* James has scored at least 30 points in seven straight games.
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or email@example.com.
WHO: Cleveland at Detroit
WHERE: The Palace of Auburn Hills (Mich.)
TV/RADIO: FSN Ohio; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM