James scores 43 as Cavs beat Rap­tors

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TORONTO (AP) — Watch­ing LeBron James at shootaround, Kevin Love knew some­thing spe­cial was in store.

Maybe not the fade­away jumpers James kept mak­ing, each seem­ingly with a higher de­gree of dif­fi­culty than the last, but he was sure there would be some­thing.

“This morn­ing you could just sense it,” Love said. “He knew what was at stake, he knew us get­ting an­other win here was go­ing to be huge for us. He came out and he played that way from the jump. You could just sense that he was go­ing to have a spe­cial night.”

James had 43 points and 14 as­sists, Love added 31 points and 11 re­bounds, and the Cleve­land Cava­liers beat the Toronto Rap­tors 128-110 on Thurs­day to take a 2-0 lead in their sec­ond-round play­off se­ries.

James de­liv­ered the first 40-point, 14-as­sist game in NBA play­off his­tory, ac­cord­ing to the Elias Sports Bureau.

He added eight re­bounds, nar­rowly miss­ing his sec­ond straight triple-dou­ble, and con­nected on 19 of 28 at­tempts in a per­for­mance so dom­i­nant that the be­lea­guered Rap­tors’ city was be­ing called “LeBronto” by the time the night was over.

“He got it go­ing and he was feel­ing it,” Cavs coach Ty­ronn Lue said.

James, mean­while, gave credit to Love, who shot 11 for 21 and missed match­ing his ca­reer play­off high by one point.

“It was great to see that per­for­mance out of him,” James said. “He’s our Al­lS­tar power for­ward. That’s a huge game for him.”

J.R. Smith scored 15 points, Jeff Green had 14 and Ge­orge Hill 13 as the Cava­liers posted their eighth con­sec­u­tive post­sea­son vic­tory over the Rap­tors and halted Toronto’s four-game win­ning streak in Game 2s. The Rap­tors en­tered 6-1 all-time when play­ing Game 2 at home.

“Love got go­ing on us and that was a dif­fi­cult matchup for us,” Rap­tors coach Dwane Casey said. “We have some matchup is­sues all over the court.”

DeMar DeRozan scored 24 points and Kyle Lowry had 21 for the Rap­tors. Toronto won a team-record 59 games and fin­ished as the top-seeded team in the Eastern Con­fer­ence this sea­son, but was eas­ily shoved one step closer to a third straight post­sea­son exit at the hands of James and the Cavs.

Jonas Valan­ci­u­nas had 16 points and 12 re­bounds and Fred VanVleet scored 14 points, but the Rap­tors lost back-to-back home games for the first time all sea­son.

Toronto matched Hous­ton by go­ing 34-7 at home in the reg­u­lar sea­son, and went 3-0 at home against Washington in round one. The Rap­tors had not lost con­sec­u­tive home games since drop­ping Games 3 and 4 of the sec­ond round to Cleve­land last May.

The se­ries shifts to Ohio for Game 3 on Satur­day night. Toronto has gone 0-5 at Cleve­land over the past two post­sea­sons, los­ing by an av­er­age mar­gin of 24.2 points per game.

“Some­times when you’re put in tough sit­u­a­tions, that’s what brings the best out of you,” DeRozan said. “That’s what point we’re at now.”

Un­for­tu­nately for the Rap­tors, James in­sisted the Cavs aren’t sat­is­fied with their 2-0 lead.

“We will not let our guards down,” James promised.

The Cava­liers, who tied a post­sea­son low with three turnovers, are 21-3 at home against Eastern Con­fer­ence op­po­nents in the play­offs over the past four years.

The Rap­tors, who let a 10-point lead slip away in a 113-112 over­time loss in Game 1, were up 54-45 mid­way through the sec­ond quar­ter but saw their lead dwin­dle to 63-61 at half­time.

Cleve­land took con­trol as Smith scored six points in an 18-5 spurt to be­gin the third quar­ter. The Cavs outscored the Rap­tors 37-24 in the third to take an 11-point edge into the fourth, and Toronto didn’t chal­lenge again.

“That’s kind of what won the game for us,” Lue said of Cleve­land’s big third quar­ter.

James was on tar­get in Cleve­land’s game-chang­ing third quar­ter, con­nect­ing on seven of 10 at­tempts and scor­ing 15 points. Love added nine as the Cavs took a 98-87 lead to the fourth.

• Ta­tum shines, Brown re­turns as Celtics beat 76ers 108-103

BOSTON — The youth move­ment is alive and thriv­ing for the Boston Celtics.

And for the sec­ond straight game it was enough to up­end a Philadel­phia 76ers team that still has much to fig­ure out as it heads home trail­ing 2-0 in the Eastern Con­fer­ence semi­fi­nals.

Rookie Jayson Ta­tum scored 21 points and hit a pair of free throws in the clos­ing sec­onds, help­ing the Celtics rally from a 22-point deficit to beat the 76ers 108-103.

Terry Rozier added 20 points, nine as­sists and seven re­bounds. Mar­cus Smart fin­ished with 19 points and five re­bounds as the Celtics im­proved to 6-0 at TD Gar­den this post­sea­son. They have never blown a 2-0 lead.

“Coach was say­ing who­ever is the tougher team is go­ing to win,” Rozier said. “They def­i­nitely punched us in the mouth at the be­gin­ning of the game. We just had to bounce back and get things to­gether.”

J.J. Redick had 23 points for the 76ers, mak­ing five 3-point­ers. Robert Cov­ing­ton added 22 points and nine re­bounds. Joel Em­biid fin­ished with 20 points, 14 re­bounds and five as­sists, but rookie star Ben Sim­mons missed all four shots and had just one point.

“Men­tally, just think­ing too much,” Sim­mons said of his tough night. “I’m go­ing to have bad games. It hap­pens. Ob­vi­ously, it’s bad tim­ing.”

Philadel­phia re­cov­ered af­ter squan­der­ing its big lead to nudge back in front 93-88 mid­way through the fourth quar­ter.

But an 11-4 run put Boston back in the lead 99-95 with less than four min­utes to play.

It was 101-97 when a missed Philadel­phia jumper led to a 2-on-1 fast break and al­ley-oop dunk from Rozier to Ta­tum with 2:23 left.

A layup by Dario Saric cut it to 104-101. But Al Hor­ford was able to drive past Em­biid for a layup with 8.3 sec­onds left.

Saric scored out of a time­out to make it 106-103. The Six­ers quickly fouled Ta­tum, who calmly hit a pair of free throws.

Fol­low­ing an ane­mic of­fen­sive ef­fort in Game 1, the Six­ers looked re­ju­ve­nated early in Game 2, us­ing a 14-2 run to be­gin the sec­ond quar­ter on their way to build­ing a 48-26 lead.

The Celtics re­sponded by end­ing the half on a 25-8 run. It in­cluded three straight 3-point­ers and a tip­dunk by Jaylen Brown, who re­turned to ac­tion af­ter sit­ting out the se­ries opener with a strained right ham­string. He came off the bench and played 25 min­utes, scor­ing 13 points and grab­bing four re­bounds.

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