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James, Hughes help Cavaliers blast Raptors

Mar 4, 2007 - 5:34 AM CLEVELAND (Ticker) -- LeBron James is playing like it's the stretch run.

James scored 36 points and Larry Hughes chipped in 27 as the Cleveland Cavaliers coasted to a 120-97 victory over the shorthanded Toronto Raptors.

James has been playing like a superstar of late, reaching the 30-point plateau for the third consecutive time. He also finished with six assists and five rebounds.

"Guys were just in rhythm," James said. "We wanted to make a stamp of approval that we're playing great basketball and that's what it's about. We're going into the playoffs strong and it's starting now."

Despite James' scoring outburst, the Cavaliers (34-25) are just 3-3 since the All-Star break. They are in second place in the Central Division, four games behind Detroit (37-20).

Toronto was without top overall pick Andrea Bargnani, who missed the matchup to tend to his ailing grandfather back in Italy.

Cleveland grabbed a 62-52 advantage at intermission when rookie Shannon Brown connected on a mid-court shot off the glass as time expired to end the half.

"We actually work on that shot," said Brown, who scored a season-high 14 points. "We like to throw them up from half court to see who has the better accuracy. When I shot it, I did think it had a chance. I didn't think it was going to go in off the backboard."

Taken 25th overall in June's draft, Brown was glad to be back in the NBA after a one-day stint in the developmental league.

"All my teammates called me and told me to keep my head up and that everything will be OK," Brown said. "It was a great humbling experience."

"Shannon played a nice role for us off the bench," Cavs coach Mike Brown said. "He came in and was aggressive offensively. "He didn't force anything offensively and took what the defense gave him."

In the third quarter, the Cavs pushed their lead to 91-72 behind an impressive 17-6 burst capped by James' 3-pointer with 52 seconds to go.

Hughes shot 11-of-17 after missing Thursday's loss with flu-like symptoms.

"(Saturday) was more of how I need to play every night," Hughes said. "There's no doubt about it. I can't struggle through a game like I have for the last week and half. It's just not winning basketball and we can't win on a consistent basis if I play like that."

All-Star Chris Bosh netted 25 points and Juan Dixon added 21 off the bench for the Raptors, who have dropped three of their last four games.

"We're going to come in with fresh minds, fresh legs, and get back to work," Toronto coach Sam Mitchell said.

"There's no reason to panic," Bosh said. "We've lost two games on the road. That happens to a lot of teams. The minute you start to panic, that's when it has that snowball effect."

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