LeBron James on Thursday scored 43 points as the Cleveland Cavaliers powered to a 128-110 victory over the Toronto Raptors to take a commanding 2-0 lead in their NBA Eastern Conference semi-finals.
The Cavs, who broke the Raptors’ hearts with a 113-112 overtime triumph on Tuesday, might well have broken their spirit as they won a second straight game at the Air Canada Centre.
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 3 and 4, but the Celtics have never lost a best-of-seven series in which they led 2-0.
The Cavaliers 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,” said 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 add 31 points and 11 rebounds for the Cavs.
J.R. 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.
However, even as Love impressed, James dazzled, confounding Toronto with an array of turnaround jump shots.
The Raptors, who earned the top seed in the conference 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,” DeMar DeRozan said. “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.”
“We understand where we’re at,” he added. “We’re going to fight.”
The Cavs, trailing by two at halftime, eviscerated the Raptors in the third quarter, opening the second half on an 8-0 scoring run to seize a lead they would not relinquish.
James and Love combined for 24 of Cleveland’s 37 points in the period — matching Toronto’s third-quarter total.
DeRozan paced Toronto with 24 points and Kyle Lowry added 21, but the Raptors had no answer for Cleveland in the second half.
The 76ers, coming off a lackluster Game 1 loss in Boston, got off to a fast start against the Celtics, but as so often in the regular season, they could not hold onto their lead.
J.J. Redick led Philadelphia with 23 points, while Robert Covington added 22 points and nine rebounds.
Joel Embiid finished with 20 points and 14 rebounds, but star rookie Ben Simmons missed all four shots he took as he scored just one point in 31 minutes.
Simmons coughed up two turnovers as Boston engineered a 20-5 scoring run to close the first half.
Over a 16-minute stretch spanning the second and third quarters, Boston outscored Philadelphia 50-20 to seize the lead.
Philadelphia edged back into the lead in the fourth quarter, but Boston responded with an 11-5 scoring run and held on for the win.
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