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Celtics, Cavs to clash at The Pete

Chances are if you're not in your seats early tonight at the Petersen Events Center, you'll miss witnessing Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James, arguably the best player in the NBA.

The same might go for the super trio of Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, the new Big Three who last season led the Boston Celtics to their first NBA title since the 1986 team that featured the original Big Three of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish.

When the Cavaliers and Celtics met Friday night in Providence, R.I., James played 13 minutes and still finished with 15 points and four rebounds in a 96-94 Cleveland loss.

For the Celtics, Allen played just six minutes (five points), Garnett played nine (four points) and Pierce played 10 (eight points).

All four players were in their respective teams' starting lineups and are expected there again tonight, when the NBA reappears in Pittsburgh after a year's absence.

It's early in the exhibition season, and coaches want to get a look at their entire roster.

Boston is 2-1 after back-to-back victories -- over Cleveland on Friday and over Houston on Saturday. Cleveland has opened 0-2 and hasn't played since its two-point setback to the Celtics four days ago.

Regardless of how long James is in the lineup tonight, he said he remembers Petersen Events Center, where he observed the 2003 Pittsburgh Hoops Classic from the stands as a high school senior at Akron (Ohio) St. Vincent-St. Mary.

"I know it's a great atmosphere," James said Monday at the Cavaliers' practice facility in Independence, Ohio. "It's great you get to travel and play basketball in high school. It's fun."

Tonight's scheduled game marks the fourth time in the past five years that the Cavaliers will have played an exhibition game in Pittsburgh but the first at anywhere other than Mellon Arena.

James, the NBA's first overall draft pick in 2003, has played in two of the previous contests, including an 83-81 loss to Dallas on Oct. 25, 2006.

In that game, James played 27.5 minutes and scored 13 points -- six in the opening four minutes -- to go with six rebounds and six assists.

It was Cleveland's first loss in Pittsburgh after scoring victories of 99-94 over Atlanta in 2004 and 96-86 over the Celtics in '05 -- a game that James sat out with a chest muscle injury.

The Cavaliers are trying to build a fan base here, a two-hour drive from Cleveland. Selected games have been televised locally in recent years, and the club markets itself in a region where Pitt has sold out its home games since Petersen Events Center was opened in 2002.

In recent years, Pitt has expressed interest in playing host to an NBA exhibition game, and tonight's affair was expected to draw about 8,000 fans at the 12,500-seat facility, which is considerably smaller than that of Mellon Arena's approximate capacity of 17,000.

"It doesn't sell anywhere here. We know it's not a home run," Petersen Events Center general manager Scott Michaels said. "But (here), it's going to be a little tighter atmosphere."

Additional Information:

Today's game

NBA preseason

Boston Celtics (2-1) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (0-2)

7:30 p.m. · Petersen Events Center

Tickets : 412-323-1919 or www.ticketmaster.com/venue/180764

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