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NBA Playoffs: Cavaliers sweep Raptors, punch ticket to another Eastern Conference Finals

NBA Playoffs: Cavaliers sweep Raptors, punch ticket to another Eastern Conference Finals

TORONTO -- LeBron James scored 35 points, Kyrie Irving added 27 and the Cleveland Cavaliers completed a four-game sweep of Toronto, beating the Raptors 109-102 on Sunday to give James his seventh consecutive trip to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Kyle Korver scored 18 points to help the Cavaliers become the first team to win eight straight playoff games the year following a title, and the first team to win eight straight in consecutive postseasons.

Channing Frye had 10 points, and Cleveland finished 16 for 41 from 3-point range.

They finished off the Raptors about an hour before Game 4 between the Celtics and Wizards tipped off in Washington.

That series won't end until Wednesday night at the earliest, and could run until Monday night, meaning the Cavaliers will have plenty of time to rest before the Eastern Conference Finals.

James added nine rebounds and six assists. Irving had nine assists.

Serge Ibaka scored 23 points, and DeMar DeRozan had 22 for the Raptors (see full recap).

Wizards use 26-0 run to rout Celtics in Game 4, tie series
WASHINGTON -- Bradley Beal scored 29 points and the Washington Wizards used a 26-0 third-quarter run to beat the Boston Celtics 121-102 on Sunday night to tie the second-round NBA playoff series at two games apiece.

John Wall added 27 points and 12 assists for Washington. Wall had seven points, three assists and two steals during the third-quarter spree that featured eight Celtics turnovers. Otto Porter scored four of his 18 points in the dominant six-minute span that also included five points from Markieff Morris.

Trailing 53-48 before the run, Washington led 74-53 on Porter's layup with 5 minutes left in the third. The Wizards led by as many as 26 and outscored the Celtics (237-191) in the two games in D.C.

Isaiah Thomas had 19 points for Boston, but scored 17 in the first 15 minutes and was held to 1-of-6 shooting after.

Game 5 is Wednesday in Boston. The series winner will face Cleveland in the Eastern Conference Finals (see full recap).

Harden, Rockets rout Spurs to tie series
HOUSTON -- James Harden scored 28 points and Eric Gordon 22 as the Houston Rockets rebounded from consecutive losses to beat the San Antonio Spurs 125-104 on Sunday night and tie their NBA Western Conference semifinal at 2-2.

The Rockets never trailed and used hot 3-point shooting to pull away in the third quarter.

Game 5 is Tuesday night in San Antonio.

Jonathon Simmons had 17 points for the Spurs, and Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge added 16 apiece.

Houston made 22 3-pointers in a blowout win in Game 1, but had struggled from long-range in its two losses. The Rockets' 3-point shooting, a hallmark of their success in the regular season, got back on track Sunday when they made 19 of 43, led by six from Gordon (see full recap).

Cavs stuck in 'Strugglesville' but still manage to survive

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AP Images

Cavs stuck in 'Strugglesville' but still manage to survive

CLEVELAND -- There was none of the usual postgame chatter or music in the Cavaliers locker room.

The mood was somber and quiet, not the same place.

"Right now we're in Strugglesville," LeBron James said. "But it felt like a win. We needed it. Definitely."

Isaiah Thomas made two free throws with 11 seconds left and Cleveland came up with a defensive stop in the frantic final seconds after blowing a 23-point lead to beat the Orlando Magic 104-103 on Thursday night and snap a four-game losing streak.

After Thomas made his shots, Orlando's Elfrid Payton missed a contested layup with three seconds left. The three officials ruled there was an inadvertent whistle and held a jump ball at midcourt.

Magic forward Aaron Gordon grabbed the toss and sank a 45-footer as the horn sounded and Cleveland's crowd shrieked in disbelief. But Gordon committed a jump-ball violation with the move and Cleveland only had to inbound the ball to come away with a victory following a crazy and exhausting final sequence that left everyone dazed.

"No, I don't," said Thomas when asked if he knew what happened. "It was a lot of back and forth. I'm just glad we just came out with the win" (see full recap).

Rockets cruise past Timberwolves in Harden’s return
HOUSTON -- Eric Gordon scored 30 points to lead the Houston Rockets to a 116-98 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday night.

James Harden returned to the Rockets' lineup after missing seven games with a left hamstring strain and finished with 10 points on 3-for-15 shooting, and added seven assists, two steals and two blocks in 26 minutes. Houston went 4-3 in his absence.

Chris Paul had 19 points, nine assists and six rebounds, and Clint Capela added 20 points for the Rockets. Houston has won 15 of the past 17 meetings with Minnesota, including a 10-game winning streak at home.

Gordon closed out a big third quarter by hitting a buzzer-beating 3-pointer off the glass from a step behind the half-court line. After hitting the shot under heavy pressure from Andrew Wiggins, Gordon gave a high-five to Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta, who was sitting courtside near the shot.

Gordon's 3-pointer helped the Rockets finish the third quarter on a 16-4 run to take an 89-70 lead into the fourth with their largest advantage of the game. Gordon made 11 of 19 shots, including 7 of 13 from 3, and fell just short of his season-high 33 points against Utah on Dec. 18.

With Rockets small forward Trevor Ariza sitting out the first part of a two-game suspension for a postgame locker room incident on Monday night in Los Angeles, Luc Mbah a Moute started in Ariza's place, scoring 14 points in 32 minutes.

Along with Ariza, reserve guard Gerald Green was also serving the first of a two-game suspension for the altercation with the Clippers (see full recap).

Sixers suddenly beating once unbeatable teams

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USA Today Images

Sixers suddenly beating once unbeatable teams

BOX SCORE

BOSTON -- What a difference two games make.

The Sixers entered this week 0-8 against the top three Eastern Conference teams: the Celtics, Cavaliers and Raptors. By Thursday night, they had picked up two straight wins over them.

The Sixers followed up Monday’s victory over the Raptors with an 89-80 win over the Celtics (see observations)

“I think we are in a good position right now,” Ben Simmons said. “Still a lot of improvement, a lot of things we’ve got to pick up on, but I think we are doing really well and getting better.” 

All season long, a downfall of the Sixers has been giving up leads. Ten, 15, 20 points have been erased just like that. 

The Sixers’ largest advantage was 21 points in the last two games, and in both instances their opponents fought back. The Raptors cut the lead to one with three minutes to play; the Celtics got within seven with two minutes on the clock.

Unlike in the past, the Sixers held on for wins.

“We’ve been in that situation too many times,” Joel Embiid said. “We just have to stay calm and keep moving the ball. We made a couple mistakes, but everything was fine and we got the win.” 

The game was missing two key players. The Celtics were shorthanded without their leading scorer, Kyrie Irving (shoulder). The Sixers were down starting shooting guard JJ Redick (leg). Brett Brown considered their absences “almost a wash.” 

Newly-announced All-Star starter Embiid led all players with 26 points, 16 rebounds and six assists, his 19th double-double of the season. 

“They are still a great team,” Brown said of the Celtics. “For us to come in here and build a lead, hold onto the lead, close out the game, and at times not in a pretty way, is a fantastic result for us.” 

With the win, the Sixers snapped a seven-game losing streak at TD Garden dating back to April 4, 2014. They also avoided a regular-season sweep by the Celtics. 

The Sixers moved above .500 (21-20) and into the eight spot in the East. The Celtics and Raptors could be postseason pairings if the Sixers hold their ground in the standings, a scenario they are well aware of in these regular-season games. 

“I don’t know what seed we are going to be, but that’s a potential matchup in the playoffs,” Embiid said. “We always want to come out and try to dominate and let them know that’s it’s not going to be easy.”