CLEVELAND, (Reuters) – The Boston Celtics gatecrashed LeBron James’s celebration party by tying up the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semi-finals series against the Cleveland Cavaliers with a resounding 104-86 road victory on Monday.
On the night James was presented with the league MVP trophy, the Celtics stole the spotlight with a big third-quarter run then survived a late rally to send the series back to Boston tied at 1-1.
Over in the Western Conference, the Phoenix Suns held off the San Antonio Spurs in a 111-102 home victory in the opener of their best-of-seven series lead.
In Cleveland, Rajon Rondo recorded 13 points and 19 assists, and Ray Allen had a team-high 22 points to allow Boston to rebound from a Game One defeat.
After controlling the early stages but fading late in the series opening loss Saturday, the Celtics turned the tables this with a 31-12 scoring advantage in the third quarter that put the visitors ahead by 23.
Cleveland created a few nervous moments by pulling within 10 in the fourth before being turned back.
“We were playing the clock instead of the game,” Rondo told reporters of his team’s blown lead.
“We got stagnant, we kept looking at the clock and we were hoping it would run out. It’s important we come out in Game Three and do the things we did but close the game out.”
James finished with 24 points but was bothered by the nagging right elbow injury that appears to be tempering his aggressiveness.
James did not receive much help from his supporting cast as Mo Williams went 1-for-9 with four points and the Cavs shot just 40 percent from the field.
Boston, on the other hand, got complete balance as all five starters posted double-figures scoring.
Kevin Garnett put up 18 points and 10 rebounds while reserve Rasheed Wallace stepped up with 17 points after being called out by his coach for poor play following Game One.
In Arizona, Steve Nash had 33 and 10 assists while Jason Richardson put up 27, including a three-pointer with 1:23 left, to push the Suns lead up to eight.
The Spurs had earlier trimmed a 14-point deficit down to one with under five minutes to play but could not complete the comeback after trailing for most of the whole game.
Manu Ginobili had a team-high 27 while Tony Parker gave Phoenix problems with his speed and finished with 26.
“They really hurt us and we have to find a way to slow Parker and Ginobili in the next game,” Richardson said.