Pain can't hold back James

Clippers guard Corey Maggette drives past Suns center Amare Stoudemire as Los Angeles lost 106-88 at home to Phoenix.
Clippers guard Corey Maggette drives past Suns center Amare Stoudemire as Los Angeles lost 106-88 at home to Phoenix. AP

DALLAS -- LeBron James' night started with a face-full of a defender's hand and got worse with a slip in an empty backcourt.

Then came two painful drives, the first leaving him with an aching wrist, the other forcing him to blink away stars from another pop in the face.

There was nothing easy or smooth about this game.

Despite the bruises, foul trouble and errant shooting, James managed 24 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, helping the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Dallas Mavericks 88-81 on Thursday night in a game almost as difficult to watch as it was to play.

"I took some blows tonight," James said. "I don't come out of the game. I'm fine. I shake it off and go to the next play.

"That didn't stop me once I got hit the first time from going back into the interior. It isn't going to stop me."

Cleveland won consecutive games for the first time in a month, yet there won't be many clips from this game on the year-end highlight film. The Cavaliers shot 36.4 percent, misfired on 14 of 16 3-point attempts and missed 10 free throws.

Still, they won in Dallas, something they hadn't done since March 23, 2000, when James was a high school freshman.

The Cavs also avenged an 18-point loss to the Mavs in the season opener.

"You can't overrate this win," said center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who had 18 points and 11 rebounds. "It's a good win, but we've got a long way to go."

CELTICS 104, SUPERSONICS 96, at Seattle -- Paul Pierce scored 26 of his season-high 37 points in the second half, and Boston held off Seattle.

Pierce hit 11 of 27 shots and 10 of 11 free throws. He was dominant in the closing minutes of the third quarter and into the fourth, scoring 14 points in a little more than 7 minutes to help the Celtics win their fourth straight and improve to 24-3.

Kevin Garnett scored 14 of his 23 points in the first half, and Ray Allen added a mostly quiet 10, playing his first game in Seattle since a draft night trade that sent the seven-time All-Star to the Celtics.

Rookie Kevin Durant led Seattle with 25 points.

SUNS 108, CLIPPERS 88, at Los Angeles -- Amare Stoudemire had 30 points and 15 rebounds and played stifling defense against Chris Kaman to lead Phoenix. Stoudemire scored 20 points and had 11 rebounds in the first half as Phoenix opened a 59-40 lead. The Suns built the lead to as many as 36 points, the last time at 79-43 midway through the third quarter.