In the division leaders’ first matchup since O’Neal was lost for perhaps the rest of the regular season, James hopes to be playing alongside Jamison as the Cavaliers host the Celtics on Sunday.
With the regular season winding down, league-leading Cleveland (51-15) wanted to be extra cautious with James and his injured right ankle. After a six-day layoff and two-game absence, James returned for the Cavaliers’ 100-95 victory over Philadelphia on Friday night.
He had 23 points and 10 assists, but shot 7 for 18 and admitted to being a little rusty.
“I felt a little off rhythm,” James said. “My wind was a little off, but it felt great to get back on the court with the guys.”
But the league’s leading scorer (29.9 ppg) appeared to be well in sync. Among his highlights were a crossover dribble for a step-back 3-pointer and a monstrous reverse dunk off an alley-oop pass.
James is averaging 37.0 points and 8.5 assists while going 7 for 15 from 3-point range in two games versus the Celtics (41-23) this season.
Cleveland had won 11 straight at home against Boston - including three playoff games in 2008 - before losing 95-89 on Oct. 27. The Cavaliers evened the season series with a 108-88 victory at Boston on Feb. 25.
That win was costly, as O’Neal injured his right thumb when Boston’s Glen Davis(notes) whacked his hand while trying to block a shot. The 15-time All-Star required surgery and isn’t likely to return until the playoffs.
Jamison, meanwhile, is expected back after missing a game due to a cyst behind his left knee. The veteran forward was limited to nine points in the last matchup with the Celtics, but is averaging 17.0 in 10 games since being acquired from Washington on Feb. 17.
Garnett wasn’t needed much Friday, finishing with nine points and six rebounds before joining the rest of Boston’s starters on the bench in the fourth quarter of a 122-103 win over Indiana.
It was the Celtics’ first win in three games. They lost to Milwaukee by two points Tuesday, then got blown out by 20 versus Memphis the following evening.
After averaging 87.0 points in three games, the Celtics decided to have the chat.
“Doc did the majority of the talking, but he opened the floor for everybody to give two cents. We just talked freely,” Garnett said. “The best thing about this team since I’ve been here is we’ve been able to talk to each other.”
Boston had played six games in 11 nights and is 18-18 since beating Orlando on Christmas Day.
Rondo needs 98 more to pass Bob Cousy for the best single-season total in franchise history.