BOSTON — Tristan Thompson’s new career highs of 29 points and 17 rebounds weren’t nearly as important to him as the number he helped the Cleveland Cavaliers avoid.
There will be no 11th straight loss for Cleveland.
Thompson and the Cavaliers dominated Boston inside as Cleveland ended its 10-game losing streak by beating the Celtics 97-91 on Friday night.
“During this losing streak, we had a lot of games we should have won but at the end of the day we ended up taking the L,” Thompson said. “Tonight was our game to win. We knew we had to take it and bring it back to Cleveland.”
It was the second time in two days Thompson took on a leadership role for the Cavaliers. After practice Thursday, he lashed out at critics who blame the Cavaliers’ woes on Coach Byron Scott and rumors that he won’t be back for a fourth season. Thompson called the speculation “bogus,” saying it was the players’ responsibility to work their way out of the slide.
On Friday, he backed up his comments by grabbing every loose ball within reach and leading the Cavaliers to a 58-42 rebounding edge in their first win since March 12. His seven offensive rebounds were just three short of Boston’s team total.
“I just know he was really geared up to play,” Scott said. “Maybe it was some of the things he said. ‘We have to come out and play like men’ – and I thought our guys did that.”
Alonzo Gee also had a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Cavaliers, who avenged their most painful loss of the skid.
The Celtics played without team captain Paul Pierce, who was out with a sore ankle.
The move may have cost the slumping Celtics. Boston has dropped eight of 11 and is clinging to the seventh playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
“We missed a lot of open shots, but I also thought we settled,” Coach Doc Rivers said.
The Celtics shot well early, but went 6 for 22 in a woeful third quarter and never recovered after the outside shots stopped falling. The Cavaliers were already controlling inside and outscored Boston 52-38 in the paint.
The Celtics also hurt themselves at the foul line, making just 13 of 22 free throws.
“We definitely thought we had an opportunity to win the game there, but we let it slip,” Jason Terry said. “In the second quarter, we built up momentum and for whatever reason we let them back in the game, sent them to the free throw line and gave them some easy baskets in transitions.”
Green scored 23 points for Boston and Shavlik Randolph had 16 points before fouling out with 6:57 left in the fourth.
The Celtics started the third quarter well with a 10-3 run for a 62-55 lead, then went without a field goal for the next 5:18. Cleveland outscored Boston 13-1 during the span with the Celtics’ only point coming on a free throw made by Randolph with 4:45 left in the third.
NOTES: Thompson’s career high in points is 27 against the Nets in March 2012. His rebounding high was 16 against Houston in January.… The Celtics were without Kevin Garnett, who missed his eighth straight game because of inflammation in his left ankle.