Basketball

James scores 45 as Cleveland advance in NBA playoffs

Monday, April 30, 2018

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Los Angeles , United States (AFP) — LeBron James scored 45 points to lead the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 105-101 game-seven victory over the Indiana Pacers yesterday and into the second round of the NBA play-offs.

Facing elimination in the first round for the first time, James produced his third 40-point game of the series. He added nine rebounds, seven assists and four steals and got solid support from his teammates as Cleveland booked a second-round clash with Eastern Conference top seeds Toronto starting on Tuesday.

“I just try to do whatever it takes to help us win. I felt like I wanted to do that again in this series,” said James, who is now 5-2 in game sevens.

James determination was evident from the opening tip-off.

He made his first seven shots from the floor and finished the first half with 26 points, five assists and four rebounds.

The Cavaliers pulled down 11 offensive rebounds in the first half and Indiana shot a respectable 54.8 per cent in the half, but their 31 attempts from the floor were 17 fewer than Cleveland's.

Leading by as many as 14 in the second quarter, Cleveland took a 54-43 lead into the break.

But the third-quarter woes that have bedevilled them surfaced again.

After surrendering just one turnover in the first half Cleveland coughed up seven, leading to 10 Pacers points in the third period.

Indiana took their first lead with 7:13 left in the third when Bojan Bogdanovic's three-pointer gave them a 59-58 edge.

A determined Victor Oladipo scored 14 of his 30 points in the quarter, but Cleveland emerged with a 76-74 lead going into the final frame after James departed for the locker room with little more than a minute remaining because of leg cramping.

Despite that scare, the Cavs wouldn't surrender the lead in the final period. They led by nine when James returned and stretched their lead to as many as 12 in the final period.

Oladipo's driving layup cut the deficit to four points with 50.1 seconds remaining, but James responded with a layup and Cleveland, who had 15 points from Tristan Thompson, 14 from Kevin Love and 11 apiece from JR Smith and George Hill, held on.

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue again shook up his starting line-up, relying on James, Love, Thompson, Smith — all holdovers from the club's last three finals teams — along with Kyle Korver.

They provided plenty of support for the team's superstar, who continued to rack up records.

He became the career play-off leader in steals when he picked off a pass in the second quarter. James had entered the contest tied with former Chicago Bulls great Scottie Pippen (395) atop the all-time post-season list.

James also became the first player to score 20 or more points 200 times in the play-offs.

Meanwhile, James Harden scored 41 points as the Houston Rockets dominated the Utah Jazz 110-96, also yesterday, in the opening game of their NBA Western Conference second-round play-off series.

The Rockets, owners of the best record in the regular season, were in control throughout, connecting on 17 of 32 three-point attempts and leading by as many as 27 over a Jazz team that eliminated Oklahoma City in the sixth game of a bruising first-round series.

Point guard Chris Paul added 17 points, six assists and four rebounds for the Rockets, who had 16 points from Clint Capela and 15 from PJ Tucker.

Donovan Mitchell, starting at point guard in place of injured Ricky Rubio and reserve Jae Crowder, scored 21 apiece for the Jazz.

But Utah offered no real resistance. They trailed by 13 after the first quarter and with their potent offence clicking, the Rockets pushed that lead to 27 with less than two minutes left in the first half.

Houston led by 25 at the break, and Utah wouldn't get the deficit below 11 points in the second half.

The Jazz got a scare late in the fourth when Mitchell rolled his ankle as he drove to the basket, Houston's Eric Gordon stepping on his dragging foot.

Mitchell limped to the bench but soon re-entered the game.

Harden notched the sixth 40-point play-off game of his career and the Rockets posted their fourth straight double-digit win of the play-offs.

Houston will try to extend their series lead when they host game two on Wednesday.

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