LeBron James left 2008 NBA Defensive Player of the Year Kevin Garnett defenseless.
James scored 21 points, including a vicious dunk over Garnett down the stretch, and the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the visiting Boston Celtics 88-77 on Monday night, to square their Eastern Conference semifinal series at two-games apiece.
"We took care of our home court," said James, who handed out a playoff career-high 13 assists and grabbed six rebounds. "That's what we needed to do to turn this into a three-game series."
The defending Eastern Conference Champion Cavaliers travel to Boston for swing game five of the best-of-seven series tonight. Game six is back in Cleveland on Friday night.
"The series doesn't start until someone wins on someone else's court," James said. "We're looking forward to going to Boston and winning up there."
Daniel Gibson and Wally Szczerbiak scored 14 points apiece while Brazil's Anderson Varejao had 12 for the Cavaliers, who won both home games by an average of 17.5 points.
"We're playing defence the way we're capable of playing, everybody is in tune," Gibson said. "Once we add our offence along with our defence, we're a tough team to beat."
The Cavaliers led by three midway through the final quarter before James and Gibson nailed three-pointers around a basket by Celtics Paul Pierce to open up a 82-75 advantage with 2:37 left.
That's when James put his signature on the game. The muscular 6-foot-8, 250-pound small forward drove past Pierce and James Posey before posterizing Garnett with a thunderous right-handed slam with 1:45 left, sending the rabid fans into a frenzy at sold out Quicken Loans Arena.
"I hadn't had a play like that all series," James laughed. "I turned the corner, gave Posey an in-and-out and he went for the fake. Once I turn the corner and get my one-two down, there's not too many guys who can get up there and jump with me.
"That capped it up there for me to put the exclamation point on the game."
Said Celtics coach Doc Rivers: "He can dunk. Especially, if you give him a running start at the basket, it ?? probably going to be a pretty good dunk. He's so darn powerful that once he gets up there, there's not a lot you can do."
Though James recognizes he's struggling with his shot (20-of-78), the reigning league scoring champion continues to do whatever it takes to help the Cavaliers win.
"I didn't shoot the ball particularly well again tonight, but I had 13 assists, three blocks and two steals," he pointed out. "It's not about me struggling from the field it's about my team winning. That's all that matters to me."
Cavaliers coach Mike Brown offered praise for the leadership James provides.
"As I've been saying all along, he's going to impact this game in a lot of different ways," Brown said. "He plays every facet of the game and that's why we had a win tonight."
Rivers laughed when asked if he thought James was struggling.
"We don't look at field goal percentage, we look at the way he's playing, his total game," Rivers said. "Clearly, no one is shooting very well from the field, and let's give both teams credit defensively. But he's making a lot of plays for his team. He's playing a teriffic series."
Garnett, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo led the Celtics with 15 points apiece, but were held scoreless in the fourth quarter when the club hit five-of-16 shots and was outscored 20-12, to fall 0-5 on the road in post-season play.