James is crowned once again

Cavaliers star secures MVP award in a runaway

Cleveland’s LeBron James joined an impressive list of back-to-back NBA MVP award winners, including Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and Michael Jordan. Cleveland’s LeBron James joined an impressive list of back-to-back NBA MVP award winners, including Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and Michael Jordan. (Aaron Josefczyk/ Reuters)
By Duane Rankin
Globe Correspondent / May 3, 2010

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AKRON, Ohio — Winning consecutive Most Valuable Player awards won’t keep LeBron James’s eyes off his ultimate goal — winning a world title.

“The only reason I do what I do on the court is to compete for an NBA championship,’’ James said. “And I understand that until I win that, I won’t go down as one of the greatest players to play this game.

“Individual accolades definitely come into account, but team is what it’s all about. That’s my only goal right now. I can’t name something right now that I [have] done individually in my short career that’s bigger than an NBA championship.’’

James, 25, has a few more steps to take in the playoffs, but the question is can the Celtics stop him and the Cavaliers?

The Celtics might have given Cleveland their best punch before falling, 101-93, in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals Saturday night at Quicken Loans Arena.

Game 2 is tonight in Cleveland.

“I don’t know,’’ coach Mike Brown said with a laugh when asked if Boston gave the Cavaliers their best shot in Game 1. “Your guess is as good as mine.’’

A day after rallying from an 11-point, second-half deficit to beat the Celtics, the Cavaliers joined James as he accepted his second MVP award before a buzzing crowd of 3,000 fans at the University of Akron’s James A. Rhodes Arena.

James received 116 of a possible 123 first-place votes. Thunder forward Kevin Durant, who was picked first on four ballots, finished second. Magic center Dwight Howard received the other three first-place votes and finished fourth.

Lakers star Kobe Bryant had no first-place votes and finished third.

The tightknit Cavaliers acted as if the cameras or fans weren’t there as James had sly, yet comical interaction with teammates.

“I need those 14 other guys to put up with my stuff and I put up with theirs, too,’’ said James with a smile.

When James, a seven-year veteran, called his teammates up to the award stand to the roar of the crowd, Jamario Moon stood upright like an energetic kid when the lunch bell sounds.

Mo Williams smiled and pumped his fist. Even 17-year veteran Shaquille O’Neal grinned ear to ear.

James joined Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Moses Malone, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Tim Duncan, and Steve Nash as back-to-back winners.

Once together on the stage, the Cavaliers posed for pictures while joking and clowning around. As always, it was fun.

But in the back of their minds, they know Boston had its way with them in the first half Saturday.

The Celtics shot 53.7 percent from the field and punched out 54 first-half points against a team ranked sixth in the NBA in scoring defense.

Cleveland also knows it limited Boston to 35 percent shooting in the second half and 15 points in the fourth quarter.

So while Williams’s third-quarter dunk over Paul Pierce turned the game around emotionally, the Cavaliers slowed the Celtics down to pull out the victory.

For Brown, it’s defense as usual.

“The trust and that defensive identity that we want to establish and continue establishing turned out OK for us,’’ Brown said after Saturday’s game.

The coach said he’s appreciative of having James on his team. “I just enjoy working with him,’’ he said yesterday. “I feel fortunate. Blessed. Lucky.’’

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