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James, Cavaliers take 2-0 series lead on Nets

May 9, 2007 - 5:46 AM CLEVELAND (Ticker) -- Superstar LeBron James is halfway to a place he's never been.

James scored 36 points and handed out a playoff career-high 12 assists as the Cavaliers posted a 102-92 victory over the New Jersey Nets in Game Two of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Tuesday.

Sasha Pavlovic scored a playoff career-high 17 points and Drew Gooden added 10 and 14 rebounds for the Cavaliers, who lead the series, 2-0, and are two victories away from advancing to the conference finals for the first time since 1992.

Cleveland has also won six straight playoff games for the first time in its history and also has won 10 straight games dating to April 12.

"We just used the momentum from winning our last four games of the regular season, clinching the No. 2 seed, to take the streak to here," Gooden said.

After Jason Kidd drilled a 3-pointer to give New Jersey an 81-78 lead with 8:37 remaining, the Cavaliers went on a 13-4 run over the next 4:13, capped by a dunk by Gooden.

"It's definitely a joy knowing when it comes down to the fourth quarter, we have a great opportunity to win the ballgame," James said.

James started the burst with a 3-pointer and finished it with a quick pass in the lane to Gooden for the slam and a 91-85 lead.

"LeBron was a man tonight," Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said.

Vince Carter made a 17-foot jumper with 2:40 left to cut the deficit to 93-89, but the Cavaliers responded with a 9-0 run before Carter hit a 3-pointer in the final seconds.

"They tightened up their defense, and between not making shots, turning the ball over, and not getting second-chance opportunities, we didn't get the job done," Nets coach Lawrence Frank said.

"I think we started to press on both ends, not just on offense, but on the defensive end as well, and that played a big part in us falling apart at the end," Kidd added.

James had scored at least 20 points in each of his 19 career playoff games. Only Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, with a streak of 27 consecutive 20-point games, had more to start his postseason career.

It's the second time in franchise history the Cavaliers have taken a 2-0 lead in a series. The previous time also was against New Jersey - in 1992 - before winning the best-of-five series in four games.

Carter had his second consecutive poor shooting game for the Nets, scoring 26 points on just 10-of-26 from the field. The eight-time All-Star shot 7-of-23 in Game One.

"My shooting struggles can turn around in a matter of seconds, but I can't turn it around if I'm not shooting it," Carter said. "I'm going to keep playing, keep attacking and keep putting the pressure on the referees to give me the calls."

Larry Hughes scored 12 points and grabbed seven rebounds and reserve Anderson Varejao grabbed nine boards, including six offensive rebounds for Cleveland, which shot 45 percent (38-of-85) and crushed New Jersey on the glass, 49-32.

"They just kicked our tails on the boards," Frank said. "You have to give (Cleveland) credit. If we are going to put ourselves in a position to get back in this series, then we're going to have to look within and find a better way."

Looking to rebound after a poor offensive showing in Game One, the Nets raced to a 28-24 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Kidd, Richard Jefferson and Mikki Moore each made three baskets as New Jersey shot 61 percent in the period. The 28 points were the most either team had scored in the first five quarters of this series.

After Bostjan Nachbar drilled a 3-pointer to give New Jersey a 31-24 lead just 18 seconds into the second quarter, Cleveland went on an 8-0 run to lead, 32-31, with 10:18 left in the half. Varejao began the burst with a layup and ended it on a dunk off an assist by rookie Daniel Gibson.

After outrebounding the Nets by 14 in Game One (51-37), the Cavaliers had a 19-9 rebounding advantage in the second period to help them take a 48-45 lead into the third quarter.

"We had 19 offensive rebounds for 18 second-chance points and that has to be the difference in the ballgame for us," Brown said. "We have to be able to rebound in order to give ourselves a chance to win and our guys did."

James and Pavlovic each had 11 points at halftime for the Cavaliers, who grabbed 10 offensive rebounds in the second period.

"We need to box out better and make it a team effort to rebound," Carter said.

Jefferson scored 22 points and Moore added 15 for New Jersey, which has never won a playoff series when trailing, 2-0.

Kidd scored 17 points, hauled in 10 rebounds and dished out eight assists but also had eight turnovers for the Nets, who shot 52 percent (34-of-65).


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