Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James, right, works against Toronto Raptors’ P.J. Tucker, left, and Serge Ibaka during the first half in Game 2 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series, Wednesday, May 3, 2017, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
CLEVELAND (AP) — LeBron James scored 39 points, hopped Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the career playoff scoring list and pushed the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 125-103 blowout over the Toronto Raptors in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series on Wednesday night.
Just like a year ago in the conference finals, the Cavs are up 2-0 on the Raptors, who had better figure some things out or this series will be over quickly. Toronto was blown out for the fifth straight time in Cleveland in the playoffs, losing each by an average of 24.2 points.
Game 3 is Friday night at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre, where the Raptors will have the crowd on their side.
However, they won’t have James, who has won a road game in 27 consecutive series and appears determined to toss Toronto aside. He finished 10 of 14 from the field.
Kyrie Irving had 22 points and 11 assists and Channing Frye scored 18 points for the reigning champions, who are 6-0 so far defending their title. Cleveland is 9-0 since losing Game 4 of last year’s NBA Finals.
The Raptors didn’t start Jonas Valanciunas, but he led them with 23 points. Toronto only got five points from All-Star DeMar DeRozan, who didn’t make his first field goal until the first minute of the fourth quarter.
Of bigger concern might be the status of guard Kyle Lowry, who sprained his left ankle in the third quarter. Lowry spent the fourth quarter in the locker room icing his ankle.
James came in needing 25 points to pass Abdul-Jabbar, and he overtook the Hall of Fame center with a 3-pointer in the third quarter, when he scored 17 points and helped the Cavs open a 26-point lead. James now only trails Michael Jordan (5,987), the player to whom he has been compared since he was a teenager, for the most points in postseason history.
James is also trying to match Jordan’s six titles. He’s halfway there, and the way the Cavs are playing, he could have No. 4 before long.
Raptors coach Dwane Casey promised the Raptors “would be a different team tonight coming out.” He meant in terms of energy, but Casey also started a smaller lineup, benching the 7-foot Valanciunas and forward DeMarre Carroll in favor of guard Norman Powell and forward Patrick Patterson. He also moved Serge Ibaka from power forward to center.
The moves were intended to give Toronto more ball handlers and open the floor on offense.
They didn’t work simply because the Raptors couldn’t contain James.
Raptors: DeRozan missed his first nine shots. … In part because of the small lineup, Toronto was outrebounded 13-2 in the first quarter. … Casey understands that James — and other superstars — may get the benefit of the doubt on close calls, and he’s fine with that. “That’s just officiating,” he said. “DeMar DeRozan, the same way. James Harden, the same way. And it should. Those guys have earned that. If you’re going to knock out the champ, you’ve got to knock him out. If it’s close, he’s going to get the call, so to speak. I have no issue with that whatsoever.”
Cavaliers: Frye made five 3s and the Cavs dropped 18 from long range. … Dating to 2015, Cleveland is 30-4 — 17-1 at home — against Eastern Conference teams in the postseason. … James also became the fourth player with 300 career 3-pointers in the postseason, joining Ray Allen (385), Reggie Miller (320) and Manu Ginobili (312). … On his 40th birthday, coach Tyronn Lue said the best gift would be a win. But the former NBA journeyman, who won two titles and played for seven teams, reflected on the milestone. “A little, small kid in Mexico (Missouri) with just dreams and hopes,” he said. “You never thought it would come true, but I worked hard and I’m here and I’m just blessed.”
James is 12-0 with Cleveland in a series when leading 2-0.