Thomas scores 53 in Celtics win, Warriors rip Jazz

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Isaiah Thomas.

Isaiah Thomas scored a career-high 53 points and dedicated the effort to his late sister as the Boston Celtics defeated the Washington Wizards 129-119 in a second-round NBA playoff game Tuesday.

Thomas scored 20 points in the fourth quarter and nine more in a game-closing 15-2 over-time run that gave the host Celtics a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference series, which shifts to Washington for game three on Thursday.

Thomas attended his sister Chyna’s funeral Saturday after she died in a car accident and has also had to overcome having had a tooth knocked out in a game-one victory Sunday.

“My sister, everything I do is for her, and she’s watching over me,” Thomas said.

On what would have been his sister’s 23rd birthday, Thomas connected on 18-of-33 shots from the floor and 12-of-13 from the free throw line.

He did more than that, eclipsing his former career-best 52 points in a regular-season victory over Miami this season and his former playoff best of 42 last year against Atlanta.

Celtics center Al Horford contributed 15 points and 12 rebounds while Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley each added 14 points for Boston.

But the only Celtics player to ever score more points in a playoff game was John Havlicek, who struck for 54 in 1973.

John Wall led seven double-figure scorers for the Washington Wizards with 40 points and 13 assists, but 19 of those points and six assists came in the first quarter.

The Wizards, who led 42-29 after the first period, became the first team since the NBA introduced a shot clock in 1954 to lose the first two games of a playoff series after leading each by 10 or more points at the end of the first quarter.

Otto Porter’s 3-pointer put Washington ahead 114-112 with 32 seconds to play in regulation but Thomas was fouled by Marcin Gortat and sank two free throws with 14.4 seconds remaining to pull Boston level again. Wall and Beal missed in the dying seconds to send the game into over-time.

In the Western Conference, NBA season wins leader Golden State beat visiting Utah 106-94 in the opener of their second-round series.

Stephen Curry scored 22 points while Draymond Green and Kevin Durant each added 17 points and Klay Thompson had 15 as the Warriors showed no rust from a week off after a first-round sweep.

The Warriors scored the first nine points and would surge ahead 58-46 at half-time. Curry scored 16 first-half points while Durant and Thompson each added 10.

Utah stayed within 84-73 entering the fourth quarter, but the Warriors opened it with a 8-0 run as the Jazz missed their first six shots of the final period and Golden State pulled away to stay.

The Warriors were coached by assistant Mike Brown as Steve Kerr remained sidelined by complications following back surgery.

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Cavaliers and Rockets romp in second-round openers

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Cavs win again.

LeBron James sparked defending NBA champion Cleveland over Toronto while James Harden powered the Houston Rockets to an epic rout of San Antonio in second-round playoff openers on Monday.

James scored 35 points and grabbed 10 rebounds while Kyrie Irving added 24 points and 10 assists and Kevin Love had 18 points and nine rebounds as the Cavaliers ripped the visiting Raptors 116-105 in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference matchup.

Four-time NBA Most Valuable Player James hit 13-of-23 shots from the floor and 7-of-8 from the free throw line while Tristan Thompson contributed 11 points and 14 rebounds for the Cavaliers, who James warned will be better in game two.

Harden had 20 points and 14 assists while Trevor Ariza scored 23 points and Clint Capela contributed 20 points and 13 rebounds as the Rockets dumped the host Spurs 126-99 to start their best-of-seven Western Conference series.

The Rockets sank a team playoff record 22 3-pointers on 50 attempts, inflicting the most 3-pointers allowed by the Spurs in playoff history.

San Antonio trailed by as many as 39 points in the team’s largest game-one defeat in playoff history. The Spurs 69-39 half-time deficit was their worst in playoff history.

The Spurs and Rockets, in their first playoff meeting since 1995, were two of the three winningest teams in the NBA this season, both trailing Golden State, which opens the second round Tuesday against Utah.

A 15-2 run to open the second quarter put Houston ahead 49-25. The Rockets had 30 assists on 40 baskets, their passing and fast pace humbling the veteran Spurs.

The Rockets went 12-of-27 from 3-point range in the first half, already hitting more shots from beyond the arc than in any first-round contest.

Kawhi Leonard led San Antonio with 21 points and 11 rebounds but the Spurs made only 31-of-84 shots from the floor.

In Cleveland, the Cavaliers scored 10 consecutive points to grab a 22-11 edge and stretched it to 38-20 early in the second quarter. Up 62-48 at half-time, they led by as many as 25 points on the way to victory.

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Raptors enter series with Cavaliers an evolved team

Jay Asser 1/05/2017
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Making his presence felt: Serge Ibaka. Picture: Getty Images.

One year after seeing their best season in franchise history ended at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Toronto Raptors are back in a familiar spot and this time with added reinforcements.

Toronto bolstered their roster with mid-season trades for Serge Ibaka and PJ Tucker for a series just like this one, which begins tonight at Quicken Loans Arena.

Cleveland have stood in the way of the Raptors reaching the next level, whether directly as they did in the playoffs last year, or by proxy as the East’s assumed top dogs.

Over the past year, there’s been little to suggest any change in the pecking order. The Cavaliers were taken to six games in the conference finals, but were hardly threatened as they outscored their opponents by an average of  15.5 points.

This season’s four head-to-head meetings were much closer, but Cleveland won the series 3-1 and that lone Toronto win came in the regular season finale which saw players on both sides rested.

However, the Raptors can hang their hat on the fact the Cavaliers have yet to see their newly-revamped roster at full strength and playing together. All three of Cleveland’s head-to-head wins came before the All-Star break, when Toronto pulled off swaps for Ibaka and Tucker.

After adding the pair, Toronto went 18-7 to close out the season, improving their defensive rating from 106.0 before the trades to 102.3 after.

No longer a team as heavily reliant on their offence and star-studded backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, the Raptors will give the Cavaliers another look.

“Just a different dynamic,” Cleveland’s Kevin Love said of Ibaka. “Definitely shooters with both him and [Patrick] Patterson out there. He brings a ton of energy.

“Played really well in round one, so he just gives them a whole different look and a guy who has a ton of playoff experience coming from Oklahoma City. Obviously getting traded from Orlando, but all his playoff experience being there and playing in a lot of big games. He really helps them.”

While Toronto come into the series after a six-game slugfest against Milwaukee, the Cavaliers enter with a week of rest following their sweep of Indiana.

The rest could be particularly helpful to LeBron James, who leads all players in the playoffs with 43.8 minutes per game. “I mean, I don’t understand why people make a big deal out of minutes,” coach Tyronn Lue said. “He had a week off before the series started. We won four straight games, and then he had a week off again. So next [series] he might play 48 minutes.”

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