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October 29, 2009

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Celtics top Cavaliers in opener, Lakers win

THE Boston Celtics seized an early advantage over their Eastern Conference rivals the Cleveland Cavaliers with a 95-89 season-opening victory on Tuesday.

Paul Pierce recorded a team-high 23 points and 11 rebounds to help the Celtics withstand 38 points from league MVP LeBron James to record their first win in Cleveland since 2004.

With Boston holding on to a slim 87-83 lead, Pierce made two jump shots in the final 1:02 as the Celtics started the 2009-10 campaign on the right foot.

Elsewhere on the opening day of the new National Basketball Association season, it was: Lakers 99, Clippers 92; Wizards 102, Mavericks 91; and Trail Blazers 96, Rockets 87.

In Cleveland, Ohio, Kevin Garnett, playing his first game since a knee injury forced him out in March, scored 13 points and made 10 rebounds while new signing Rasheed Wallace chipped in with 12 points off the bench.

"I felt good. I felt eager and excited (and) I had to calm myself down," Garnett told reporters of his return. "Cleveland has gotten better, the whole East has gotten better.

"This was a good test, we're trying to see where we're at and get things straight."

Cleveland's major offseason acquisition Shaquille O'Neal had 10 points and 10 rebounds in his debut with his new team.

Energized by their home crowd, the Cavaliers made their first four shots and took a 19-5 lead in the first quarter.

Boston stormed back by outscoring Cleveland 30-17 in the second quarter and tallying seven three-pointers in the first half where they took a 51-45 advantage by halftime.

James kept his team in the game by scoring the last four points of the third quarter and finished with eight assists and four blocks.

The top two seeds in the Eastern Conference last season, both the Cavaliers and Celtics were eliminated from the playoffs by the Orlando Magic and bolstered their rosters in the offseason.

The Celtics picked up Wallace and guard Marquis Daniels while Cleveland, in addition to O'Neal, acquired guard Anthony Parker and forward Jamario Moon.

"We're still a fairly new team. We're still learning each other," O'Neal said of the loss.

"I've been around 17 years, won the first game, lost the first game. We'll be fine."

In Los Angeles, Kobe Bryant scored 33 points and Andrew Bynum added 26 on his 22nd birthday as the reigning NBA champions opened defense of their title by beating Staples Center co-tenants the Clippers, who played without injured No. 1 overall draft pick Blake Griffin.

Ron Artest scored 10 points in his debut in the starting lineup. Pau Gasol sat out with a strained right hamstring and was replaced by Lamar Odom, who had 16 points and 13 rebounds.

Eric Gordon scored 21 points for the Clippers, who lost their ninth in a row to the Lakers. Chris Kaman added 18 points and 16 rebounds, Marcus Camby had 14 points, and reserve Craig Smith 12.


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