|Celtics lead series 3-2|
CLEVELAND — His team down by 27 points and a promising season suddenly in peril, LeBron James walked off the floor to a smattering of boos and rows of empty seats.
If this was his goodbye to Cleveland, it wasn't the send-off he imagined, as the Celtics have pushed the two-time MVP and the Cavaliers dangerously close to an early start to the Summer of LeBron.
Ray Allen had 25 points, Rajon Rondo scored all of his 16 in the second half and the Celtics beat James and the Cavs 120-88 Tuesday in Game 5 to move within one win of knocking the league's top team from the playoffs.
The Celtics handed the Cavs their worst home playoff loss ever and can end Cleveland's season Thursday night in Game 6.
"We cannot come back here," said Boston center Kevin Garnett, who scored 18. "We have to think this is our Game 7 coming up and we cannot afford to have the best team in the league have a Game 7 on their floor. Just not possible."
James, expected to become a free agent July 1, scored 15 on 3-of-14 shooting, a startling outing for the 25-year-old who has been playing with a sprained elbow. He refused to use his injury as an excuse.
"I missed a lot of open shots that I normally make," he said with little emotion. "You don't see that out of me a lot so when it happens, it's a big surprise."
If Boston clinches Thursday, Orlando will have homecourt advantage for the Eastern Conference final, which would start Sunday in Orlando.
BOSTON (120): Pierce 9-21 2-3 21, Garnett 8-14 2-2 18, Perkins 2-4 6-9 10, Rondo 7-12 1-3 16, R.Allen 8-13 3-3 25, Wallace 0-1 0-0 0, T.Allen 2-4 2-2 6, Davis 4-7 7-10 15, Robinson 0-0 0-0 0, S.Williams 2-2 1-2 5, Finley 0-0 0-0 0, Daniels 2-2 0-0 4. Totals 44-80 24-34 120.
CLEVELAND (88): James 3-14 9-12 15, Jamison 4-10 0-0 9, O'Neal 7-11 7-10 21, M.Williams 3-8 2-2 9, Parker 5-9 2-2 14, Varejao 1-3 3-3 5, Ilgauskas 2-5 1-1 5, West 1-3 0-0 2, Moon 1-1 2-2 4, Gibson 1-3 0-0 3, Hickson 0-0 0-0 0, Powe 0-1 1-2 1. Totals 28-68 27-34 88.
3-Point Goals—Boston 8-15 (R.Allen 6-9, Rondo 1-1, Pierce 1-3, T.Allen 0-1, Wallace 0-1), Cleveland 5-15 (Parker 2-5, Gibson 1-2, Jamison 1-2, M.Williams 1-2, James 0-4). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Boston 54 (Pierce 11), Cleveland 39 (Varejao 8). Assists—Boston 25 (Rondo, Pierce 7), Cleveland 20 (James 7). Total Fouls—Boston 28, Cleveland 30. Technicals—Perkins, Rondo, O'Neal, M.Williams, Cleveland defensive three second. A—20,562 (20,562).
Lakers sweep, clinch berth in West final
The Lakers have a little more time to rest before their third straight trip to the West final.
Los Angeles capped a four-game sweep of Utah with Monday's 111-96 win in Salt Lake City.
The Lakers have almost a week to prepare for Phoenix, which wrapped up its own sweep Sunday night at San Antonio.
"I look forward to a couple days of rest, but I really look forward to starting it up against a very good Phoenix team," said Pau Gasol, who had 33 points and 14 rebounds for the Lakers.
Los Angeles led by 22 in the first half, then withstood a surge before regaining control.
Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry said 7-footer Robin Lopez, out since March 28 (bulging back disk), might be available. Lopez scrimmaged Tuesday.
SALE APPROVED: Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov became the principal owner of the Nets after the board of governors approved the purchase from Bruce Ratner. The closing is expected today. Prokhorov paid $200 million plus other contingencies for 80 percent of the team and 45 percent of the Brooklyn arena site.
MAVERICKS: Center Erick Dampier had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee.
HONOR: Longtime Boston Globe reporter Jackie MacMullan became the first woman to receive the Curt Gowdy Media Award from the Hall of Fame in its 21-year history. Longtime Cavaliers radio play-by-play announcer Joe Tait was also tabbed for the award, given for contributions to basketball.