The Boston Celtics rested two-thirds of their Big Three. Everybody else was up to the task.
Eddie House scored 21 points as the Celtics rolled to a 96-82 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers in a preseason game Wednesday night.
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“We got a win. We closed the preseason out right,” said House, who hit 8 of 14 shots from the field including three 3-pointers.
Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen didn’t play for the Celtics, coach Doc Rivers saying before the game that he had also asked Paul Pierce to rest. Pierce, however, started and played just over 13 minutes and scored 11 points.
“I was just trying to stay sharp,” Pierce said. “We’ve got five, six days before we play again. I thought it was good for me to go out there.”
The two teams meet again in the season opener on Tuesday in Cleveland.
“I don’t care where it is when you play the Cavs,” Pierce said. “They’re a team that we probably are going to have to go through in the Eastern Conference. They’re going to be right up there at the top if they stay healthy. It’d be great to get a win in that building.”
Marquis Daniels scored 17 points, Kendrick Perkins 13 and Rasheed Wallace 10 for the Celtics (6-2). They were on top 32-22 after a quarter and never trailed again, leading by as many as 21 points in the third quarter.
House said the Celtics bench showed how good it can be.
“We’ve got a great combination of guys,” he said. “Rasheed can go on the block or stretch out the defense, shooting some 3s. Marquis is a guy who can slash, rebound, bring the ball up. I just think we have a great dynamic on the second unit.”
LeBron James scored 18 points, Shaquille O’Neal 16 and Anderson Varejao had 10 for the Cavaliers (3-4).
James said the Cavaliers needed to improve, now and over the long haul.
“At the end of the day, it’s a preseason game and you don’t want to look too far into it,” said James. “We did want to play better, but we know can get better. That doesn’t mean we’re going to be on top of our game the first game. Sometimes it takes a few weeks for us to get to how we’re going to play for a whole season. Let’s not let the first game determine our season, either.”
The first half ended with a skirmish. After Rajon Rondo’s shot in the lane spun out, leaving the Celtics with a 56-48 lead, the Cavaliers’ Mo Williams got up from the floor and threw an elbow that hit Boston’s Shelden Williams in the chest. The Celtic Williams then pushed the Cleveland Williams before order was restored. O’Neal ran from the Cavaliers’ bench toward the brief skirmish, but was stopped when he got to midcourt.
O’Neal, who came to Cleveland in a trade with Phoenix on June 25, said he’s ready for the season to get started and believes the team has meshed well.
“Oh, it’s perfect. It’s a close-knit group,” he said. “I look forward to a fabulous season.”
The Celtics took the lead for good midway through the first quarter on Pierce’s three-point play off a fadeaway in the lane.
Rondo’s third-quarter free throw pushed the lead to 73-52, with subs playing most of the last quarter for both teams.
Boston coach Doc Rivers said his team had made progress through camp.
“You just watch your team, things that you’ve marked down that you should be progressing in, getting better in, understanding our language, understanding what we call the Celtic Way,” he said. “It’s each guy doing it better and better – doing their jobs. For the new guys, it’s going to take them some time to understand it completely. That’s what we mean by we’ll be better as the year goes on.”