LOS ANGELES: Cleveland superstar LeBron James wasn’t celebrating Thursday, even after the NBA champion Cavaliers escaped with a 124-118 win over the Boston Celtics on the eve of his 32nd birthday.
James fell just two rebounds shy of his 46th career triple-double with 23 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds.
But eight turnovers and a serious lapse that kept the door open for the charging Celtics had James fuming over his own play.
“I was horrible tonight,” James said. “In every facet of the game, I was just pretty bad and it’s unacceptable.”
The Cavaliers were up by 18 points heading into the fourth quarter.
After Jae Crowder’s three-pointer pulled the Celtics within 113-108 with 3:26 remaining, James listlessly tapped the ball back to Kyrie Irving after receiving the inbounds pass.
Boston’s Avery Bradley pounced for the steal and an easy dunk that pulled the Celtics within three.
“I just didn’t see him,” James said. “Definitely got to pay attention to what’s going on in the flow of the game. I was just throwing it back in to Kyrie and (Avery) just jumped it, so if I was paying attention to him, with Avery being the defensive-minded guy he is, I should have seen him. Big mistake.”
Irving scored 32 points and handed out 12 assists for his fifth double-double in his last seven games. Kevin Love scored 30 points and pulled down 15 rebounds.
Irving thought James might have been a little hard on himself.
“That guy is so special,” Irving said. “He gives himself an ‘F’ and he still ends up with 23, 8 and 11.”
Irving limped off in the final minute with what he said was a tight right hamstring.
Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said he thought Irving would be ready to play on Saturday in Charlotte.
Down 101-83 going into the fourth quarter, the Celtics got the deficit to one point four times before succumbing.
A driving basket by Isaiah Thomas pulled Boston to 117-116 with just over a minute to play when Irving countered with a driving layup of his own.
Thomas was fouled on the Celtics’ next possession and sank both free throws, as Irving departed.
James tried driving past Celtics guard Marcus Smart, who fouled him with 21 seconds to play.
James split the free throws to give the Cavs a 120-118 lead.
Crowder’s open look at a three-pointer with 10 seconds left bounced off the rim. Cleveland’s Richard Jefferson hauled in the rebound to end Boston’s hopes.
“I thought it was good,” Crowder said. “I had a good look at it. My coaches had confidence in me to make that. I’ll step into it a hundred more times.”
Thomas led the Celtics with 31 points and Bradley added 23, but Boston coach Brad Stevens said his team’s lack of defense left them in too big of a hole.
“If they have 100 points after three quarters, you don’t have a real chance to beat them,” he said. “We’ve got to play a lot better than that. Our guys did a great job in the comeback, but I was disappointed in the first three quarters.”