BOSTON — LeBron James led the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers to a blowout in Boston with an individual performance reminiscent of the rivalry’s heyday.

And this time Paul Pierce was sitting courtside in street clothes, unable to do anything about it.

With the former Celtics great waiting to see his No. 34 raised to the Boston Garden rafters, James shook off a first-quarter leg injury to score 24 points with 10 assists and eight rebounds Sunday to give Cleveland a 121-99 victory.

In their first appearances since being acquired at the trade deadline, Jordan Clarkson scored 17 points, Rodney Hood had 15, George Hill had 12 and Larry Nance Jr. scored five. They practiced with the Cavs for the first time Saturday.

“I know the guys that are here are very excited about this opportunity,” James said. “It’s my job as the leader of this team to make sure I acclimate the new four guys to be around a culture that’s built around winning.”

James scored 13 in the second quarter, eight during a 13-2 run that turned a one-point deficit into a double-digit lead. The Celtics made it 64-55 on the first basket of the third quarter but never got within 10 again.


As the Cavaliers opened a 27-point lead midway through the fourth, the crowd began chanting “We want Paul Pierce!” But he remained in his baseline seat, awaiting the postgame ceremony that would raise his No. 34 to the TD Garden rafters.

“It definitely gave me chills, especially with LeBron out there,” Pierce said. “I wanted to be out there.”

The current Celtics, who spent much of the season in first place in the East, could have used him.

“Yeah, we stunk,” Coach Brad Stevens said, “but they were really good. They had a lot to do with that.”

Terry Rozier scored 21 with nine assists and Kyrie Irving scored 18 against his former team before sitting out the fourth quarter. The Celtics have lost 3 of 4 to fall behind Toronto in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

The Cavaliers, who have won three straight, are five games behind Boston. To help make a push for their fourth straight NBA finals, Cleveland traded away six players and acquired four at the deadline.


“All of our new guys performed and played well,” Coach Tyronn Lue said. “So that’s a good sign.”

NOTES: LeBron James banged into Aron Baynes in the lane with about five minutes left in the first quarter and hobbled off the court, favoring his right leg. He came back in with nine minutes left in the half and hit a jumper to make it 40-40 before his outburst that helped the Cavs pull away. …

The trades mooted a mini controversy over whether the Celtics would honor Isaiah Thomas in his return to Boston. Thomas balked at being recognized on his first visit back with the Cavaliers because he was injured. And Pierce balked at sharing the stage with him Sunday. But Thomas was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers at the deadline and won’t return to TD Garden this year. …

Stevens said Marcus Smart continues to recover from a lacerated right hand that has kept him out since he cut his hand on broken glass at the team hotel Jan. 24.

“Not going to expect to see him on Wednesday night (against the Clippers),” Stevens said. “Hopeful that he’ll be back and ready to go after the All-Star break. But we’ll see.”

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