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James inflicts worst home playoff defeat upon Celtics

Cavaliers 36 29 31 28 124
Celtics 17 26 27 25 95
Cavaliers lead series 2-1

BOSTON — LeBron James and the Cavaliers only needed one quarter to elbow their way back into the lead of their Eastern Conference semifinal with the Celtics.

James scored 21 of his 38 in the first quarter to help Cleveland beat Boston 124-95 on Friday, handing the Celtics their worst home playoff loss ever and taking a 2-1 best-of-seven series lead.

"It started with me tonight. Everyone else saw my aggression and took advantage of it," James said. "I think rest helped me; rest helped all of us, and we were able to put together a complete game for the first time in these playoffs."

Showing no ill-effects of an elbow problem that was the talk of Cleveland during the three-day layoff since a Game 2 loss at home, James finished with eight rebounds and seven assists. The 21 points in a quarter was a franchise postseason record.

"I know I'm going to hear a lot about the elbow, but I'm here to play basketball and give our team a chance to win," James said. "We knew how important it was to come out and play aggressively after giving away Game 2."

Rajon Rondo, who had 19 assists in Boston's Game 2 win Monday, had 18 points and eight assists. The Celtics missed 10 of their first 13 shots, hitting just 27 percent in the first quarter to spot Cleveland a 21-point lead.

The Celtics' previous worst home playoff loss was 97-70 to Indiana on May 7, 2005, in Game 7 of the first round.

Game 4 is Sunday, and the Celtics need a victory to split their home games and assure themselves of another.

James wore a black sleeve on his right elbow, which became a concern after he shot a free throw left-handed in the closing minutes of Cleveland's first-round playoff clincher against Chicago. But he went 8-for-10 from the field in the first quarter — most of them mid- to long-range jumpers.

The fans booed at halftime and they cleared the building midway through the fourth.

"That's embarrassing when you lose at home like that," said Paul Pierce, who scored 11 on 4-for-15 shooting. "… They took the fight to us early, and we didn't respond to it."

CLEVELAND (124): James 14-22 8-9 38, Jamison 7-15 6-7 20, O'Neal 5-7 2-2 12, M.Williams 4-8 4-4 12, Parker 4-4 0-0 11, Varejao 2-3 2-2 6, West 5-7 4-4 14, Moon 0-1 0-0 0, Hickson 2-3 1-2 5, Gibson 0-1 2-2 2, Powe 1-3 2-2 4. Totals 44-74 31-34 124.

BOSTON (95): Pierce 4-15 2-5 11, Garnett 8-11 3-3 19, Perkins 2-2 1-3 5, Rondo 9-17 0-0 18, R.Allen 2-9 3-3 7, Davis 1-5 3-4 5, Wallace 1-2 0-0 2, T.Allen 3-5 4-5 10, Finley 1-2 0-0 3, Robinson 3-10 3-4 11, Daniels 0-3 0-0 0, S.Williams 1-1 2-2 4. Totals 35-82 21-29 95.

3-Point GoalsCleveland 5-12 (Parker 3-3, James 2-3, Moon 0-1, M.Williams 0-1, West 0-1, Gibson 0-1, Jamison 0-2), Boston 4-17 (Robinson 2-4, Finley 1-2, Pierce 1-5, R.Allen 0-1, Davis 0-1, Daniels 0-1, Rondo 0-3). Fouled OutNone. ReboundsCleveland 54 (Jamison 12), Boston 34 (Rondo 5). AssistsCleveland 25 (M.Williams, James 7), Boston 20 (Rondo 8). Total FoulsCleveland 24, Boston 22. TechnicalsCleveland defensive three second, Garnett. Flagrant Fouls—Perkins. A18,624.

Suns seize command: The Suns are one win away from revenge after Goran Dragic scored 26 in Phoenix's 110-96 victory for a stunning 3-0 lead over the host Spurs in the Western Conference semifinals.

The Spurs have put Phoenix through a decade of postseason misery, ousting the Suns from the playoffs four consecutive times since 2003. Another win finally ends all that.

They can thank Dragic, who had a brilliant fourth quarter of 23 points. No team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series. Game 4 is Sunday in San Antonio, Texas.

Suns 19 25 27 39 110
at Spurs 28 22 22 24 96
Suns lead series 3-0

PHOENIX (110): Gr.Hill 7-11 4-4 18, Stoudemire 3-10 1-3 7, Collins 0-0 0-0 0, Nash 6-14 4-4 16, Richardson 8-15 0-0 21, Frye 3-6 0-0 9, Dudley 0-3 0-0 0, Amundson 0-0 0-0 0, Barbosa 5-7 1-3 13, Dragic 10-13 1-3 26. Totals 42-79 11-17 110.

SAN ANTONIO (96): Jefferson 1-9 2-2 4, Duncan 5-9 5-12 15, McDyess 6-11 0-0 12, Parker 5-17 0-4 10, Ginobili 10-17 3-3 27, Ge.Hill 1-7 6-7 8, Bonner 4-6 0-0 11, Blair 3-3 0-0 6, Bogans 0-0 0-0 0, Temple 1-1 0-0 3. Totals 36-80 16-28 96.

3-Point GoalsPhoenix 15-26 (Dragic 5-5, Richardson 5-7, Frye 3-5, Barbosa 2-2, Gr.Hill 0-1, Dudley 0-3, Nash 0-3), San Antonio 8-16 (Ginobili 4-9, Bonner 3-4, Temple 1-1, Ge.Hill 0-2). Fouled OutNone. ReboundsPhoenix 45 (Stoudemire, Nash 8), San Antonio 54 (Duncan 13). AssistsPhoenix 16 (Nash 6), San Antonio 17 (Ginobili, Parker 5). Total FoulsPhoenix 20, San Antonio 14. TechnicalsPhoenix defensive three second. Flagrant Fouls—Frye. A18,581.

Magic-Hawks: The blood dripping from Dwight Howard's nose suggested he and the Magic might not be so perfect. "I'm human," Howard said. "It's not like I'm built of metal."

Howard returned from a bloody nose to finish with 29 points and 17 rebounds, and Orlando remained the only unbeaten team in the playoffs with a 112-98 win over the Hawks on Thursday. Orlando looks to lengthen its 12-game winning streak and up its Eastern series edge to 3-0 today.

"It's good to be on a winning streak, but for some reason it doesn't feel like a winning streak," forward Rashard Lewis said. "Maybe because it's the playoffs it feels like every possession counts and every game counts, so we haven't had time to sit back and appreciate it."

Arenas released: Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas, 28, arrived home in Great Falls, Va., from a halfway house, having completed one part of his punishment for bringing guns into the locker room. His sentence also includes two years of probation. Arenas' sentence called for 30 days, but he was released slightly early because the Bureau of Prisons doesn't release offenders from halfway houses on weekends.

James inflicts worst home playoff defeat upon Celtics 05/07/10 [Last modified: Saturday, May 8, 2010 12:39am]
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