Isaiah Thomas has a knack for big performances in Boston, and Cleveland certainly could have used one from him on Wednesday night.
However, Thomas was resting on the second night of a back-to-back after making his season and Cavaliers debut Tuesday, so Cleveland had to fend without him and came up short in a 102-88 loss to the Celtics at TD Garden.
Thomas, who rose to stardom during his three seasons with Boston before the Celtics traded him to the Cavaliers in a deal that netted Kyrie Irving last offseason, sat on the bench as his teammates struggled to find answers for his old squad.
Terry Rozier paced the Celtics with 20 points off the bench. Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart each scored 15 and Jaylen Brown 14 as Boston (31-10) won its fourth straight. Irving finished with 11 points, nine rebounds and six assists.
LeBron James finished with 19 points, seven rebounds and six assists for Cleveland. Kyle Korver hit five 3-pointers for 15 points, and former Celtic Jeff Green scored 13.
The Cavaliers (25-13) have dropped four of their past five.
Cleveland's Kevin Love left the game with 1:08 to play in the second quarter after injuring his right ankle in a fall earlier in the period. Love finished with two points in 21 minutes.
Boston expanded its 55-47 halftime lead to as many as 20 points in the third quarter before taking an 81-68 advantage into the fourth. The Cavs were outscored 21-20 in the final 12 minutes.
Cleveland shot just 29.2 percent in the opening quarter as Boston jumped ahead 32-21.
During the quarter break, Thomas was shown on the video board and greeted with a booming standing ovation from the Boston fans.
Thomas, who had asked the team not to play a video tribute for him until he is healthy enough to play in Boston, pounded his chest in acknowledgement of the crowd.
The 5-foot-9 guard scored 18 points in his season debut Tuesday against the Portland Trail Blazers after missing the Cavaliers' first 36 games recovering from a hip injury.
"I was out for seven months. There was no way I was going to (make my return) against Boston (until I'm fully healthy)," Thomas said.
Cleveland beat Boston 102-99 in the season opener in a rematch of last year's Eastern Conference finals.
Boston ends a four-game homestand Friday against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Cleveland is off until Saturday, when it visits the Orlando Magic for the second contest of its five-game road trip.
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