LeBron James inspires Cavaliers to rare win in Boston

BOSTON (Reuters) - The Cleveland Cavaliers ended a three-year losing streak in Boston with a 108-88 rout over their Eastern Conference rivals on Thursday.

LeBron James scored 36 points and dished out nine assists to help the Cavaliers snap a nine-game losing run at the TD Garden with their first road win over the Celtics since 2007.

Cleveland (45-14) dominated the second half by a 60-32 margin despite losing Shaquille O'Neal in the second quarter, when the starting center sprained his thumb and did not return.

"There was no panic among our guys, they stayed with it," Cavaliers coach Mike Brown told reporters. "We knew 24 minutes (in the second half) is a lot of time left in a game and we started chipping away at it."

Boston played without leading scorer Paul Pierce, also nursing a thumb injury, but Ray Allen picked up the slack with a team-high 21 points and Rajon Rondo recorded 19 and 11 assists to lead the home team.

The Celtics (36-20) led for most of the first three quarters but struggled to just 40 percent shooting from the field and managed only 14 points in the final period.

Cleveland used a 20-5 run midway through the fourth to turn a one-point deficit into a 97-83 lead with 4:26 to play.

Guard Mo Williams made three three-pointers in a row during the run and scored 14 of his 19 in the last period.

Anderson Varejao added 14 and 10 rebounds for the Cavaliers, who shot 52 percent from the field.

"We play faster without Shaq in the lineup," James said. "He's going to take as much time as he needs to get healthy, but we need him out there because in the playoffs you can't play fast all the time."

After a three-game losing skid, NBA leaders Cleveland have won their last two. They had lost their last five regular season games in Boston and four others during the 2008 playoffs.

(Editing by Ian Ransom)