LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers made the most of the comforts of home on Saturday, routing the Boston Celtics 108-84 in the NBA playoffs.
James scored 21 points as the Cavaliers bounced back from two defeats in Boston to narrow the gap in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference second-round series to 2-1.
While the Cavaliers avoided falling into a 3-0 hole, and will now have a chance to even the series at home, the Detroit Pistons squeaked out a 90-89 victory in Orlando to take a 3-1 lead over the Magic in their series.
Tayshaun Prince’s hook shot with 8.9 seconds to play lifted the Pistons, who can advance with a game-five victory in Detroit tomorrow.
In Cleveland, James again put up lackluster scoring numbers, shooting just 5-of-16 from the field.
But he added eight assists, five rebounds, four steals and three blocks.
“Of course I haven’t shot the ball the way I’d like,” James said. “But the win is all that matters. I can’t worry about the way I’m shooting the ball.”
“If I’m not making the shots, I was still able to get four steals, had three blocks and eight assists. I do so much more than just shoot the ball. It was key that other guys stepped up,” he said.
Delonte West scored 21 points and Wally Szczerbiak added 16 for the Cavaliers, who shot 54 percent from the field including 10-of-19 from 3-point range.
The 23-year-old star’s poor shooting had been a hot topic in the first two games of the series.
He missed a potential game-tying layup in game one and was woeful from the perimeter in a game two rout.
As a result, the Celtics easily improved to 6-0 at home in the postseason, but their loss on Saturday saw them fall to 0-4 on the road.
“In every way they beat us tonight,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “They got to the loose balls. They played harder, they outcoached us. We have to be better.”
The Celtics were feeling the heat early. James whipped up the crowd with a soaring dunk after a steal by West to give the Cavaliers an early eight-point lead.
His 3-pointer made it 27-8 with 1:52 left in the quarter en route to a 32-13 lead at the end of one period.
“We were not comfortable,” Rivers said. “We didn’t make plays. We had great shots to start the game, but when we started missing them, instead of being the solid defensive team that we’ve been we got down because our offense got down.”
Boston got as close as 12 points on two free throws from Paul Pierce in the third quarter, but Cleveland scored six of the next eight to regain control.
The Celtics’ key contributors seemed tentative.
Ray Allen and Pierce combined to score 24 points on just 7-of-20 shooting. Kevin Garnett collected 17 points and nine rebounds for the Celtics, who will try again for their first road win of these playoffs in game four today.
In Orlando, Prince and Richard Hamilton took up the slack for a Pistons team whose All-Star point guard Chauncey Billups was sidelined by a strained right hamstring suffered in game three.
Hamilton scored 32 points for the Pistons, while Prince had 17 including his game winner.
Jameer Nelson had made 1-of-2 free throws to give Orlando an 89-88 lead with 44.8 seconds left.
The Pistons then went to Rasheed Wallace, who missed a turnaround jump shot off the rim.
Detroit’s Antonio McDyess ran down the rebound, the Pistons swung the ball right and Prince drove across the lane from there.