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James, Cavs shred Raptors, Celtics rally to down Sixers

LeBron James scored 43 points as the Cleveland Cavaliers powered to a 128-110 victory over the Toronto Raptors on Thursday to take a commanding 2-0 lead in their NBA second-round playoff series.

The Cavs, who broke Raptors hearts with a 113-112 overtime triumph on Tuesday, may well have broken their spirit as they won a second straight game at Air Canada Centre, putting themselves in position to sweep Toronto for a second straight year when the best-of-seven Eastern Conference series shifts to Cleveland on Saturday.

In Boston, the Celtics seized a 2-0 lead in their series against Philadelphia, roaring back from a 22-point second-quarter deficit to triumph 108-103. Jayson Tatum scored 21 points to lead six Boston players in double figures as the Celtics remained unbeaten on their home floor in these playoffs.

The 76ers will try to right the ship as the series shifts to Philadelphia for games three and four, but the Celtics have never lost a best-of-seven series in which the led 2-0.

The Cavaliers, meanwhile, head home with a chance to sweep the Raptors for a second straight year. “We’ve got to continue to keep our guards up and continue to push,” cautioned James, whose 14 assists matched his career playoff high. He notched his 23rd playoff game with at least 40 points and his fourth so far this post-season.

Kevin Love, averaging less than 11 points per game this post-season, emerged from his offensive slump to added 31 points and 11 rebounds for the Cavs.

JR Smith scored 15, George Hill chipped in 13 and Jeff Green came off the bench to contribute 14 as the Cavs extended their post-season dominance of the Raptors. “This was a complete team effort,” James said.

“It’s a big win for us.” But even as Love impressed, James dazzled, confounding Toronto with an array of turnaround jump shots. “This’ll be my fourth year here, I don’t know if I’d seen that out of him,” Love said.

The Raptors, who earned the top seed in the East for the first time in franchise history as Cleveland struggled to find consistency throughout the regular season, insisted they can still make it a series.

“We thrive on adversity,” said DeMar DeRozan. “We’ve been in tough situations before and sometimes when you’re put in tough situations that’s what brings the best out of you. -AFP

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