BOSTON — LeBron James quieted a Celtics crowd that came to celebrate Paul Pierce on Sunday, scoring 24 points with 10 assists and eight rebounds to give new-look Cleveland a 121-99 victory over Boston in an individual performance reminiscent of the rivalry’s heyday.
And this time, Pierce was sitting courtside in street clothes, unable to do anything about it.
James shook off a first-quarter leg injury to score 13 in the second quarter — eight of them 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 — the 23rd person in the history of the NBA’s most-decorated franchise to be so honored.
The current Celtics, who have spent much of the season in first place in the East, could have used him.
Terry Rozier scored 21 with nine assists and Kyrie Irving scored 18 against his former team before sitting out the fourth quarter as the game became a blowout. The Celtics have lost three of four to fall behind Toronto in the Eastern Conference playoff race; the Cavaliers, who have won three straight, are 5½ games behind Boston.
In their first appearances for Cleveland since being acquired at the trade deadline, Jordan Clarkson scored 17 and George Hill had 12 points.
Pierce watched the game from a baseline seat, under the basket where the Celtics scored 42 points in the fourth quarter of Game 6 of the finals to clinch their 17th NBA championship. On the other side of the basket were former coach Doc Rivers and former teammates Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo and Antoine Walker.
Timeouts featured tribute videos from Rivers, Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant and Pierce’s college coach, Roy Williams.
THUNDER 110, GRIZZLIES 92
OKLAHOMA CITY — Paul George scored 33 points and Oklahoma City beat Memphis without fellow stars Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony.
Westbrook missed the game with a sprained left ankle and Carmelo Anthony sat out with a sprained right ankle. George responded by making 10 of 24 shots and adding eight assists.
Alex Abrines scored 16 points and Raymond Felton, Jerami Grant and Patrick Patterson each added 14 for the Thunder.Marc Gasol scored 18 points for the Grizzlies.
PACERS 121, KNICKS 113
INDIANAPOLIS — Victor Oladipo had 30 points, nine assists and eight rebounds to help Indiana beat New York.
Bojan Bogdanovic made four 3-pointers and finished with 20 points and Thaddeus Young added 18 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. The Pacerso have won six of eight.
Enes Kanter and Tim Hardaway, Jr. each scored 17 points, and Michael Beasley had 16 points and 13 rebounds for the Knicks. They have lost six in a row.
TIMBERWOLVES 111, KINGS 106
MINNEAPOLIS — Karl-Anthony Towns scored 29 points, Jeff Teague added 12 points and 10 assists and Minnesota overcame an uncharacteristic sloppy performance at home to beat Sacramento.
Minnesota had 17 turnovers and allowed Sacramento 22 second-chance points, but prevailed after back-to-back road losses. Jimmy Butler scored 18 points, 15 in the second half, for the Timberwolves in their 13th straight home win. De’Aaron Fox had 23 points for Sacramento.
ROCKETS 104, MAVERICKS 97
HOUSTON — James Harden scored 27 points, Chris Paul added 25 and Houston routed Dallas.
The Rockets have won eight straight and 12 of 13.
Yogi Ferrell scored 20 points for the Mavericks. They have lost eight of 10.
RAPTORS 123, HORNETS 103
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — DeMar DeRozan had 25 points and eight assists, C.J. Miles added 24 points and Toronto routed Charlotte for its fifth straight victory.
Jonas Valanciunas added 21 points and nine rebounds for Toronto, sparking the Raptors’ pivotal run in the third quarter. Dwane Casey earned his 300th victory as head coach of the team.
Kemba Walker led the Hornets with 23 points and nine assists.
HAWKS 118, PISTONS 115
ATLANTA — Dewayne Dedmon gave Atlanta the lead with a three-point play and then padded the margin with a 3-pointer, lifting the Hawks past Detroit.
Dedmon matched his career high with 20 points and had 13 rebounds in his matchup with Andre Drummond, who had 25 points and 15 rebounds for Detroit. Dennis Schroder had 23 points, including six free throws in the final 20 seconds, for Atlanta.
Blake Griffin had 23 points for Detroit. The Pistons have lost two straight after winning five in a row, including four with the newly acquired Griffin.