CLEVELAND – For one night, losing LeBron didn’t hurt so bad.

After nearly four months of emptiness, anger and worry, the Cleveland Cavaliers returned to the floor and realized they can still win.

Maybe they’re going to be OK after all.

Playing their first game in seven years without LeBron James, the Cavaliers stunned the Boston Celtics 95-87 in their season opener Wednesday night, a win that gave heartbroken Cleveland fans reason to believe life will be fine minus their two-time MVP.

“This was for the city,” forward Antawn Jamison said. “It was for the fans to let them know the Cavs will survive and this is a place where you can still watch good basketball. And most of all, you can watch a team that wins.”

J.J. Hickson scored 21 points, Daniel Gibson added 16 — all in the second half — and the Cavaliers made several clutch plays in the closing minutes to hold off the Celtics, who defeated James and the Miami Heat on Tuesday night.

Rajon Rondo scored 18, Paul Pierce 13 and Ray Allen 12, and Kevin Garnett had 15 rebounds for Boston, which led by 11 points in the third quarter but shot only 6 of 16 and was outscored 27-14 in the fourth.

“We took them a little bit too lightly,” said Shaquille O’Neal, who spent last season with Cleveland.

Gibson, who missed his first eight shots, made four free throws in the final 17.2 seconds for Cleveland, dealt a devastating blow in July when James announced he was leaving as a free agent. The loss rocked a city that hasn’t celebrated a pro sports championship since 1964 and triggered predictions the Cavaliers would slide back among the NBA’s bottom dwellers.

Not just yet.

“Guys in this locker room believe,” said Jamison, who joined the Cavs last season thinking he could win a title with James. “We’ve been listening to what people are predicting for us. We’re going to let our game do the talking.

“It’s probably going to take a month or so for people to realize, ‘Hey, this is a team that can win and compete for the playoffs.’“

As the final seconds ticked off, Cleveland fans jumped for joy, owner Dan Gilbert pumped his fist and hugged those sitting near him and confetti fell from the ceiling of Quicken Loans Arena like it did so many times while James was around.

“It felt like Game 7 of the finals,” said Cavs guard Ramon Sessions, who scored 14 and started in place of injured Mo Williams. “I’ve never been to the finals, but that was the type of atmosphere here.”

With the score 86-all, Cleveland’s Anthony Parker drilled a 3-pointer with one tick left on the 24-second shot clock. Boston got a tip-in from Glen Davis and during a timeout, the officials reviewed Parker’s shot and determined it was, in fact, a 3.

Celtics Coach Doc Rivers disagreed, shaking his head and saying “No way.” Rivers didn’t think Parker got the shot off in time, and it did appear to take him several seconds to gather himself and shoot.

“That was the longest second in NBA history,” Rivers said. “I wasn’t going to argue. Somebody didn’t push that button quick enough.”

Byron Scott, the first-year Cleveland coach, wasn’t complaining.

“We’re at home,” he joked. “It’s supposed to be a long second.”

The Cavs played without Williams, who is still working his way back from a groin injury suffered before training camp opened.