The best player in the league will lead his team against one of the best clubs in the NBA tonight at Quicken Loans Arena.
LeBron James, who earned Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors Monday after recording three triple-doubles in four games, and the Cavaliers will host the red-hot Boston Celtics tonight at 7.
“He`s an amazing talent, an amazing player,” Cleveland coach Mike Brown said after watching James average 36.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 8.5 assists over the previous week. “The guy is just unbelievable. He`s unselfish. His leadership skills are off the charts. It`s all because he worked at it.”
As great as the 22-year-old James has been in averaging 31.3. points, 8.3 rebounds and 8.1 assists for the 8-6 Cavaliers, the Celtics have been just as phenomenal in starting the season 11-1.
With All-Stars Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen joining mainstay Paul Pierce, Boston is the early favorite to represent the East in the NBA Finals.
The 6-foot-11, 253-pound Garnett, James` only legitimate challenger for MVP honors at the moment, has averaged 20.9 points, 12.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists since being traded to the Celtics from Minnesota in the offseason.
Allen, who came over from Seattle, is averaging 19.6 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.5 assists, while Pierce is putting up 22.2, 5.3 and 5.2.
Boston, which also starts Kendrick Perkins and Rajon Rondo, has lost only to fellow Eastern Conference power Orlando this season.
The key has been Garnett, who is currently fifth in the league in rebounding after leading the league in that category each of the last four years. “KG” led the league with 66 double-doubles last season – he played in just 76 games – and has 11 already this season.
Before rushing to anoint the Celtics as NBA champions, however, it should be noted they`ve been the beneficiary of a fairly easy schedule to date, having gone 7-0 at home and 4-1 on the road.
Tonight will mark just the second time Boston has played two straight games on the road, and both times it has had two days off in between.
The Cavaliers, who did not practice Monday after playing on two straight afternoons, have won three straight and four of their last five behind James` sensational play.
Over his last six games, the 6-8, 250-pounder has averaged an incredible 37.5 points, 10.2 rebounds and 9.5 assists for the shorthanded Cavaliers, who have needed all his heroics while playing without Anderson Varejao (holdout), Larry Hughes (bruised leg) and Donyell Marshall (sprained wrist).
Since 1965, only Oscar Robertson and Wilt Chamberlain have put up those numbers over a six-game span.
“I understand a team is going to double me,” James said. “I just know how to play against every defense a team is going to throw at me.”
Lately, opposing teams have been forcing James to give up the ball, but he`s been finding wide-open teammates for 3-pointers and they`ve been knocking them down.
For the first time in franchise history, the Cavaliers have made at least 13 3-pointers in two straight games. They went 13-of-30 Saturday against Toronto and 13-of-24 Sunday in Indiana.
“LeBron is doing a great job of finding us when we`re open,” said Daniel Gibson, who has gone 6-of-11 from beyond the arc over the last two games, with fellow specialist Damon Jones going 7-of-12. “He`s just playing at another level right now. You see how hard he works and how hungry he is and you just feed off it.”
James` 31.3 scoring average is four points better than anyone else in the league.
* Cleveland has beaten Boston in seven of their last eight meetings, including four in a row at The Q.
* Sasha Pavlovic`s 22 points against Indiana were a season high, as were his four 3-pointers in eight attempts.
* It doesn`t get any easier for the Cavaliers, who travel to Detroit on Wednesday.
* Garnett has the NBA`s longest active streak of double-figure scoring games with 410. Denver`s Carmelo Anthony is second with 143, while Allen is third with 110. Garnett`s total puts him seventh all-time, behind Michael Jordan (840), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (787), Karl Malone (575), Moses Malone (526), Abdul-Jabbar (508) and Robertson (427).
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or email@example.com.
WHO: Cleveland vs. Boston
TIME: 7 o`clock
WHERE: The Q
TV/RADIO: FSN Ohio; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM