Rajon Rondo, left, scored all his points
in the first half [AFP]
LeBron James suffered a bad night at the office as the Boston Celtics edged out a 76-72 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers in the opening game of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Kevin Garnett scored 28 points to make up for an off night for the rest of Boston's Big Three.

James was held to 12 points on 2-for-18 shooting. He missed three drives and a 3-pointer in the final minute.

Game 2 is Thursday night in Boston.

James scored Cleveland's first basket and then missed his next 10 shots before driving for a layup that cut Boston's lead to 66-65 with 5:34 left.

He then missed his last six shots, including a potential game-tying finger roll that bounced off the inside of the rim with 8.5 seconds left.

James scored just two points in the second half while finishing with nine rebounds, nine assists and 10 turnovers.

Rajon Rondo scored all 15 of his points in the first half, and Kendrick Perkins grabbed 12 rebounds for the Celtics.

Paul Pierce drew two charging fouls while guarding James but scored just four points on 2-for-14 shooting, and Ray Allen (0-for-4) didn't score.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas had 22 points and 12 rebounds for the Cavaliers, who shot 31 percent and couldn't make a basket at the end of the game.

The Celtics won an NBA-best 66 games in the regular season, and someone will have to beat them at home to derail their hopes of a league-record 17th championship.

The Cavaliers stayed in the contest by hitting 22 free throws (to Boston's 14), and by taking advantage of 21 Celtics turnovers.

Source: Agencies