LeBron and Cavs crash Paul Pierce's party with rout of Celtics

LeBron and Cavs crash Paul Pierce's party with rout of Celtics

BOSTON – So much for that uh, adjustment period for the Cleveland Cavaliers to integrate all their new players.

Cleveland was in midseason form, putting a damper of sorts on an otherwise festive mood in defeating Boston in convincing fashion, 121-99, on the day Celtics legend Paul Pierce’s jersey No. 34 was to be retired.

LeBron James only played 28 minutes, but still managed a double-double of 24 points and 10 assists and came just two rebounds shy of what would have been a third straight triple-double.

The loss, combined with the Toronto Raptors' victory in Charlotte later Sunday night, dropped the Celtics (40-18) out of the top spot in the East for the first time since October. The Raptors (39-16) lead Boston by a half-game.

The Cavs, playing their first game with the new guys acquired at the trade deadline – George Hill, Rodney Hood, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. – executed at both ends of the floor with no signs of unfamiliarity.

Meanwhile, the Celtics looked and played overwhelmed in every way, prompting a small but noticeable chorus of boos for Boston in the early goings of the fourth quarter.

Kyrie Irving had decent numbers – 18 points on 7-for-14 shooting – but at no point was he able to elevate his play to a level the Celtics needed in order to get the win.

And as the game wore on, fans were eager for its completion if for no other reason than to bring on something positive, like Pierce’s jersey retirement celebration.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens had talked about his team not playing as crisp as they need to, and how they tend to save their best play for after they get down big.

That wasn’t the case on Sunday as the Celtics came out playing with a level of aggression we usually don’t see until they fall into a double-digit hole.

Considering how much harder they were playing at the start of the game and still unable to put any real distance between themselves and the new-look Cavs, was not a good omen for what was to come.

With the score tied at 40 in the second quarter, the Cavs went on a 16-6 run.

Cleveland wasn’t done, leading by as many as 13 points in the first half before taking a comfortable 64-52 lead into halftime.

The second half saw Cleveland continue to surge ahead and emerge with a win that gives them the season series, 2-1.

While Sunday’s loss won’t necessarily be a factor if these two meet in the playoffs. But it does give the Celtics a better sense of what they will see if these two manage to face off in the postseason.

One thing is clear.

Boston has to play better, regardless of whether they have to face the Cavs again.


The Kyrie brand continues to expand

USA TODAY Sports Photo

The Kyrie brand continues to expand

LOS ANGELES – With Tinseltown as the backdrop, Kyrie Irving’s acting debut in the film, "Uncle Drew the Movie," will officially hit movie theaters this summer.

A five-time All-star and NBA champion, Irving is one of the few NBA players with a signature shoe deal.

And that deal, along with him venturing into the film game, speaks to the ever-expansion of the Irving brand. During Saturday’s media scrum, a time when the sports journalism world chimes in with a wide array of questions for the best players on the planet, some of the first ones asked were in regards to his upcoming movie.

They came from former Celtic Nate Robinson, who is in the movie as well.

That said, it still doesn’t diminish the fact that Irving is setting himself up to be more than just a talented basketball player.

“It comes with a lot of sacrifice, privacy,” Irving said before adding, “but you get a chance to put your creative influence and inspiration on things that have helped you develop as a person. You get to share that with the world. That’s pretty awesome. And you get to share it through art, through my game, through different avenues of sponsorship and you’re able to get that message through to people. That’s pretty awesome. I try to take full advantage of that.”

Part of Irving’s all-star weekend was spending time with the press to speak specifically about his upcoming movie.

Irving also made public appearances for corporate partners such as Mountain Dew.

There was a time not that long ago when the idea of an athlete having interests outside of basketball were frowned upon.

But Irving has been moving to a different beat for as long as he has been playing the game of basketball.

And that isn’t going to change anytime soon.

“Sometimes because of the way we’re put on this platform, people have opinions on the way that we should be, how we should act, things that we should be involved with,” Irving said. “The important thing that get’s glazed over is that we’re human beings. So, it’s pretty tough finding that balance.

Irving added, "For me, it’s just about respect all people. That’s something I always try to hammer home, something I was taught as a kid. It’s crazy. You get slack for saying stuff about certain things and feeling strongly, and if you don’t say enough you get the bad end of that as well. If you feel confident and you’re knowledgeable on a lot of things and you feel strongly about it, you should go for it. Everyone has a voice and they should be respected.”


Ray Allen among Hall of Fame finalists

Ray Allen among Hall of Fame finalists

Ray Allen, part of the Celtics' Big Three that won Boston's last championship in 2008, is one of the finalists for the Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2018 announced Saturday at NBA All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles.

Allen, the all-time leader in three-pointers with 2,973, who, with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, helped the Celtics hang their 17th championship banner, joins Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, Grant Hills and WNBA stars Tina Thompson and Katie Smith as first-time nominees. Also among the finalists are Maurice Cheeks, Chris Webber, coach Charles “Lefty” Driesell, coach Kim Mulkey, coach Rudy Tomjanovich, referee Hugh Evans, and the Wayland Baptist University women’s team.

The inductees to be enshrined in the Hall in September in Springfield, Mass., will be revealed April 1 at the NCAA men's Final Four in San Antonio. 

Finalists for induction need to be retired for at least three seasons. They'll now be voted on by a 24-member panel that includes current Hall of Famers, basketball executives and media members. Those receiving at least 18 of 24 votes will be inducted.

More on the Hall finalists here from NBCSports.com's Pro Basketball Talk 

Allen was part of a recent Celtics Talk podcast where he talked about his Celtics career and the controversy after he left to join the Miami Heat in 2012. Click here or listen below.