CLEVELAND — More than anything Tuesday night, the Celtics  showed they can take the best an opponent has to offer and respond strong.
Not just any opponent on any court. The Celtics beat the Cavaliers , 95-89, on the home floor of one of the teams that’s expected to challenge Boston for Eastern Conference supremacy.
‘¢ Player of the game: Paul Pierce . His jumper in the final minute cemented a 23-point virtuoso performance for the captain and Boston’s first win of the season. He added 11 rebounds for good measure. Runner up: Rajon Rondo  ‘ On a night when Danny Ainge said he continues to talk with Rondo’s agent on a new deal, Rondo set the tempo. With chaos swirling around the team in the wake of the Glen Davis  debacle and a double-digit deficit early, Rondo restored order on the court.
‘¢ Turning point of the game: LeBron James  gave the Celtics a gift when a Boston turnover with 4.7 seconds left in the third put the ball in his hands. He drove past Rasheed Wallace  and had an easy lay-up, but the ball rimmed out and that seemed to give the Celtics a big reprieve. It also kept the crowd from exploding. Runner-up ‘ With 5:32 to go in the fourth. James hit one of two free throws to cut the C’s lead to four, 80-76, but Kendrick Perkins  converts a three-point play to answer.
‘¢ The Celtics fell behind early by 14 twice, 19-5 and 21-7, but they closed the gap to 28-21 after one. Rasheed Wallace, Marquis Daniels  and Shelden Williams , filling in for Glen Davis, all played significant minutes in the first quarter as the Celtics found their legs.
‘¢ The Celtics turned up the defensive pressure in the second quarter. The team preached in the preseason that they will go only as far as their defense takes them, and it showed in the second, where they went from a seven-point deficit to a six-point lead, 51-45. They held the Cavs to 5-of-16 shooting from the floor. More impressive than the 31 percent they held the Cavs to from the field was the fact that Cleveland could only manage five field goals on their home court.
‘¢ Thanks in large part to the above, the C’s completely took the raucous Q crowd out of the game until a LeBron James three with two minutes remaining in the third.
‘¢ Bench belief. With the Celtics holding onto a seven-point lead heading into the fourth, the Celtics took the court with Wallace, Daniels, Eddie House  and Shelden Williams. Those four joined Ray Allen  as Doc Rivers  was able to rest his big guns. Wallace hit a big jumper from the right wing to extend the lead to nine with 11:25 remaining. Daniels drilled a three moments later and the lead was an even 10.
‘¢ The Celtics took advantage of Cavalier play. Twice in the final two minutes, the Cavaliers turned the ball over and twice they forced up quick three-pointers trailing by just six when a two-pointer would have been the better play. Isn’t this why they got Shaq?
‘¢ James got his. LeBron finished with 38 points and eight assists but just four rebounds.