LOS ANGELES: LeBron James poured in a season-high 30 points on Thursday (Friday in Manila) as the NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers remained unbeaten with a 128-122 victory over the Boston Celtics.
James scored 20 of his points in the third period and added 12 assists for the Cavaliers, who have won the first five games of the season for the first time since the 1976-77 campaign, when they started 8-0.
James has started a season 5-0 just once before, when he was with the Miami Heat in 2011-12 — the season he won the first of his three NBA titles.
James’ 30 points left him tantalizingly close to another career milestone. With two more points he’ll move past Hakeem Olajuwon (26,946) into 10th place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.
Kevin Love scored a season-high 26 points and Kyrie Irving added 23 for Cleveland, who let a double-digit lead evaporate before closing out the contest.
“We want to continue to get better,” James said. “When we get up on teams we’ve got to figure out how to continue to just push the lead up or just keep it where it is and not allow teams to get back into the game.”
Isaiah Thomas scored a season-high 30 points and Avery Bradley had 26 points and 10 rebounds for the shorthanded Celtics.
Boston, playing on the second night of a back-to-back, were without Al Horford, who is subject to the league’s concussion protocol after taking a blow to the head this week. Jae Crowder was missing with a sprained ankle sustained in Wednesday’s victory at Chicago.
James played the role of facilitator in the first half, handing out 13 assists as the Cavs built an 18-point lead.
After a Celtics surge he went on the attack in the third quarter as the Cavaliers stretched their lead to as many as 20 before Boston trimmed the deficit to single digits in the fourth.
“This is the best I’ve seen the Cavs play in November,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “Everybody is trying to figure themselves out to be the best version of themselves, but they’re way ahead of where they were the last two years, in my opinion. And (James) looks great. I mean, they’re really good.”
Irving said the stability of the Cavaliers team meant they haven’t had a lot of adjusting to do early in the season.
“We’re three years in with one another,” Irving said. “We know what to expect.
“We have something that we’re building here that’s very special. And the trust and responsibility and everything that we depend on from one another is already there. It’s not like we had to come in training camp and had to figure things out right away.
“For us, it’s about staying healthy and maintaining our edge on other teams.”