BOSTON (AP) — Paul Pierce scored 24 and Kendrick Perkins returned for the first time since injuring his knee in the NBA finals to help the Boston Celtics beat Cleveland 112-95 on Tuesday night and send the Cavaliers to their 18th consecutive loss.
Perkins, who had offseason surgery to repair his anterior cruciate ligament, had seven points and six rebounds in 16 minutes.
Ray Allen scored 18 points and Rajon Rondo had 10 assists for Boston, which bounced back from a loss to the lowly Washington Wizards.
J.J. Hickson scored 12 points with 17 rebounds for Cleveland.
It was the Cavs’ first time back in Boston since losing Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals — the second time in three years the Celtics knocked the Cavaliers out of the playoffs. The LeBron era in Cleveland ended with James walking off the court, stripping out of his Cavs jersey and tossing it aside to an attendant.
Things have not gone well for the Cavaliers in their first season since James signed with the Miami Heat as a free agent. They have gone from the best record in the NBA to the worst, losing 27 of their last 28 games since Thanksgiving weekend.
Pierce scored all of his 24 points in the first half, with 17 points in the first quarter to help the Celtics open an eight-point lead. They led by 22 after two quarters and still led 78-59 midway through the third when coach Doc Rivers emptied his bench.
Perkins was limited to 16 minutes — by his conditioning, not by the knee he injured in Game 6 of the NBA finals against the Los Angeles Lakers. Without him, the Celtics lost 83-79 in Game 7 to miss a chance at their second title in three years and an unprecedented 18th in all.
Perkins received a standing ovation when he entered the game with 8:02 left in the first quarter, with his teammates joining in and guard Nate Robinson waving a towel to encourage the fans. Perkins scored on a layup less than a minute later, drawing another big cheer, and the fans again stood when he left the game for good with about 10 minutes left.
NOTES: Cleveland radio announcer Joe Tait was released from the Cleveland Clinic on Tuesday afternoon and transferred to a rehabilitation center after undergoing heart surgery recently. Pierce scored 17 points on 6-for-8 shooting in the first quarter. … Hickson was 5-for-6 from the floor while scoring 10 for the Cavs in the third.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)