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Henry Liao

NBA Playoffs: Cavs, Warriors Unblemished

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The reigning National Basketball Association champion Cleveland Cavaliers and the 2015 titlist Golden State Warriors, the two teams that clashed in the Finals in each of the last two years, remain unblemished in the current playoffs.

Cleveland owns a five-game winning streak (eight consecutive postseason victories overall since whipping Golden State in seven dramatic games to become the first team in NBA annals to capture the Finals after overcoming a 3-1 series deficit) heading into Game 2 of its best-of-seven Eastern semifinal duel with Toronto today (Manila time) at the friendly Quicken Loans Arena.

The No. 2-seeded Cavs easily disposed of the Raptors in Game 1, registering a 116-105 success behind do-it-all LeBron James? 35 points, 10 rebounds and four assists and Kyrie Irving?s 24-point, 10-assist effort.

The Wine City outfit had swept the 7-seed Indiana Pacers in four straight contests in the first round by just a combined 16 points (tying the fewest total winning margin in a four-game series sweep in league history set by the Washington Bullets against the Golden State Warriors in the 1975 Finals) while pinning the Pacers with their first four- in their 50-year American Basketball Association-NBA existence.

A three-time Most Valuable Player awardee in the NBA Finals, the 32-year-old James needs 25 points in Game 2 to surpass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (5,762 points) as the No. 2 all-time leading scorer in NBA playoff history behind only Michael Jordan (5,987).

Meanwhile, Golden State also is 5-0 in the ongoing playoffs. The Warriors, the No. 1 overall seed in the postseason after topping the regular wars with a 67-15 record, downed the No. 5-seed Utah Jazz, 106-94, in Game 1 of their Western semifinal series yesterday (Manila time) at the Oracle Arena. Stephen Curry chalked up 22 points, seven rebounds and five assists for Golden State.

The Dubs will again host Game 2 on Friday May 5 (MT).

Golden State swept the eighth-seeded Portland Trail Blazers, 4-0, in the first round. While it got back star Kevin Durant in the series clincher after he missed the second and third games due to a strained left calf, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr has yet to return to the team since Game 3 vs. Portland due to complications from a pair of back surgeries.

Warriors assistant coach Mike Brown, who had uneventful stints with Cleveland (where he was bullied by James to the exit door in two tours of duty with the Cavs) and Los Angeles Lakers, has been calling the shots from the bench since the time.

In the other East second-round matchup, Boston grabbed a 2-0 lead over No. 4-seeded Washington with a 129-119 overtime decision in Game 2 yesterday at the TD Garden for the Celtics? sixth consecutive postseason victory. Isaiah Thomas, the East?s scoring leader during the regulars at 28.9 ppg, netted a playoff career-high 53 points for the Green, including 38 points in the fourth quarter (29) and five-minute extension (nine). John Wall topped Washington with 40 points and 13 assists.

Boston had secured the series opener, 123-111, also at home as Thomas put together a masterful 33-point, nine-assist performance.

Boston, the top seed in the conference, beat 8-seed Chicago in six games during their first- round series after surrendering the first two games at home to become only the third squad in NBA playoff history to capture a best-of-seven series after going 0-2 at home.

The Los Angeles Lakers were the first team to turn in the trick during the 1969 Western Division semifinals against the San Francisco (now Golden State), rallying for a 4-2 win following home setbacks in the first two games of the series. The title-bound Houston Rockets duplicated the feat during the 1994 West semifinals, overcoming a 0-2 hole with twin losses on home territory in knocking off the Phoenix Suns in seven games.

Game 3 of the Celtics-Wizards series will be held in Washington on Friday May 5 (Manila time). The Wizards will also host the fourth encounter on Monday May 8 (MT).

Out West, Houston looks to improve to 2-0 in its semifinal battle against Texas rival San Antonio today (MT) with another road victory.
The third-seeded Rockets crushed the second-seeded Spurs, 126-99, in Game One to steal homecourt advantage.

Houston, which ousted Oklahoma City, 4-1, in the first round, got 23 points from Trevor Ariza, a one-time championship veteran with the 2009 LA Lakers, and 20 points and 14 rebounds from MVP contender James Harden, who collected 20 points and 14 rebounds.

Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs? two-way forward who is an MVP candidate like Harden and OKC?s Russell Westbrook, struggled in the series opener, shooting a frigid 5-for-14 from the field for 21 points following an outstanding 31.2-point performance in their 4-2 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round.
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