Celtics hand Cavaliers 18th straight defeat

BOSTON (Reuters) - The Boston Celtics brushed aside Cleveland in a 112-95 blowout on Tuesday to send the NBA-worst Cavaliers to an 18th consecutive defeat.

Paul Pierce scored a team-high 24 points in just 24 minutes and the Eastern Conference-leading Celtics used a 15-3 second-quarter run to pull away from the Cavaliers.

The Celtics led by 22 at halftime and never looked back.

Center Kendrick Perkins made his season debut for Boston (34-10) in his first action since injuring his knee in last season's NBA Finals. He finished with seven points and six rebounds in limited action.

"It felt good to be on the floor," Perkins told reporters. "When (coach Doc Rivers) came and got me in the fourth, I really wanted to stay out there just to keep working on my rhythm and good things and just getting game time.

"It was just cool to be out there."

Shaquille O'Neal missed a second straight game with injury but the Celtics hardly needed the big man, getting 18 points from Ray Allen in the rout.

Christian Eyenga had 15 points for the Cavaliers (8-37), who have not won in over a month and have lost 28 of their last 29 games.

Cleveland has endured a nightmare season after franchise cornerstone LeBron James left the team as a free agent to join the Miami Heat.

One season after posting the NBA's best record (61-21), the Cavaliers now sit at the bottom of the league standings.

The team is one defeat away from tying a franchise-record 19 straight losses set in the 1981-82 campaign. Cleveland then lost their first five games of the 1982-83 season for an NBA-record 24 losses in a row.

"The biggest thing for us is to go out there and compete, and not worry about what's being said in the news, and how many we lost in a row," said Cleveland veteran Antawn Jamison.

The Celtics were coming off an 85-83 loss to the Washington Wizards on Saturday but rebounded and have won six of their last seven.

(Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by Steve Ginsburg)