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Celtics silence James in toppling Cavaliers

When asked for his assessment of LeBron James, Eric Williams was full of compliments.

"I love that kid and everything he brings to the game, love his attitude more than anything," Williams said. He called James "one of the wisest young guys" he has ever met on a basketball court. Williams concluded that it was only a matter of time before the Cavaliers showed dramatic improvement under the young leadership of King James.

"Normally, you get rookies coming in the game just trying to score and going for personal accolades," said Williams. "But it seems like this guy has got something else [in mind]. Once the rest of their team gets to the level he's playing, as far as the mental aspect, then this team, in 20 or 30 games, can be a tough team to play."

Williams may have underestimated the real length of the James learning curve. But it just goes

to show, even when James submits a subpar performance (10 points, 3 assists, 5 rebounds, 4 turnovers), he still leaves a big impression. The Celtics will meet the Cavaliers two more times before the 30-game window Williams set expires. The Cleveland team Boston played last night stayed in the game for one quarter before being easily beaten, 91-82. If all game nights in the NBA came with designated themes, the one most appropriate for last night would be "growth." It works for both teams. James makes it an obvious fit for the Cavaliers. With each contest, he learns more about what he can do and how he must improve. The Cavaliers learn more about playing with their 18-year-old phenom. For the Celtics, they also grow with each game, learning how to play more effectively with each other and maturing in their mental approach.

With a win last night before a soldout FleetCenter crowd of 18,624, the Celtics showed they are a quick study. Jim O'Brien deemed the mistakes made in a loss to the Bulls Wednesday "very, very correctable," an early-season aberration. The way Boston defeated Cleveland proved O'Brien correct.

The Celtics did not stand around on offense for a second straight game. They moved. They passed. They scored. Particularly in the first half. Four players reached double figures and everyone who saw playing time except Jiri Welsch recorded a field goal.

"We're spreading it around," said Paul Pierce (19 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds, 1 turnover). "It's not a one-man show here. Trying to find other guys, everyone being unselfish. That's what's going to make our offense one of the best in the league. If we continue to do that, believe in one another, we're going to be tough."

Any attempt to establish an offensive rhythm in the second half was disrupted by a steady stream of fouls called against the Celtics. Cleveland went to the line 29 times after the break. The Cavaliers twice closed within 4 points in the third and came within 5 points in the fourth on three occasions, even though they shot only 26 percent in the second half and 35 percent overall.

"I thought we did a lot of nice things in grinding out this win," said O'Brien. "I was very pleased with our low turnovers [8]. In the first half, we really moved the basketball well and got great looks. It slowed down a little bit in the second half, and again we slowed down our flow because of really, basically foolish fouling."

The foolish fouling in the second half followed wise decision-making on offense in the first. As a result, Boston entered halftime ahead, 52-42, shooting 48 percent from the floor. The Celtics had 15 first-half assists.

The Celtics separated themselves from the Cavaliers by opening the second quarter with a 16-6 run. Tony Battie started the spurt with a layup, then Williams went to work with a steal, 3-point play, turnaround 10-footer, and 22-footer. Vin Baker contributed a 20-footer. Pierce also hit a 20-footer, then found Kedrick Brown for a 3-pointer from the right side. Brown's shot pushed Boston ahead, 39-26, with 7:10 remaining in the half.

Throughout the night, the Celtics' big men -- Battie (15 points, 7 rebounds), Baker (13 points, 11 rebounds), and Mark Blount (8 points, 4 rebounds, 2 blocks, 2 assists) -- came up big. The contribution of the big men in combination with the passing of Mike James and Pierce made the difference.

"We were just moving the ball and working hard," said Mike James (8 assists). "Guys were getting good shots, easy baskets, and continuously playing. We have to grow every game. We can't get satisfied with where we're at."

Sounds like good advice for LeBron James, too.

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