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James leads Cavaliers past slumping Celtics 98-83

THE Cleveland Cavaliers claimed the momentum in the NBA's Eastern Conference race with a 98-83 win over a slumping Boston Celtics yesterday, in a game foreshadowing their potential playoff showdown.

LeBron James scored 38 points, harassed Paul Pierce all over the floor and strengthened his case to be the league's MVP front-runner as the Cleveland Cavaliers improved to 19-0 at home.

James scored 23 in the second half. He added seven rebounds, six assists, four steals and three blocks as the Cavaliers surged to a 20-point lead in the second half.

Cleveland handed Boston its second-largest loss of the season and dropped them to 2-7 since opening 27-2.

Pierce, who came in averaging 19.5 points, was held to 11 on 4-of-15 shooting.

Magic 121, Hawks 87

In Orlando, Florida, Orlando built a remarkable 38-point lead by halftime to crush Atlanta.

Hedo Turkoglu hit all five 3-point attempts, scoring 21 points for the Magic, who enjoyed their best offensive night, start-to-finish, this season and notched an 11th straight home win.

The game was decided early and decisively when the Magic ran off a season-high 41 points in the first quarter and tied its season high for a half. The Magic held the Hawks to just 25 percent shooting over the first two quarters and led 71-33 at halftime.

Hornets 107, Clippers 80

In New Orleans, the home team handed Los Angeles its 10th straight loss.

Rasual Butler scored a season-high 27 points, hitting six 3-pointers, as the Hornets made 11 3-pointers and had seven players score in double figures.

The Clippers have lost their past eight games against New Orleans.

76ers 93, Bobcats 87

In Philadelphia, the home team won its third straight, downing Charlotte.

Andre Miller scored 22 points and Thaddeus Young had 15 for the Sixers, who have rapidly put a dreary road trip behind them and moved out of last place in the Atlantic Division and into the Eastern Conference playoff race.

They used a 14-2 run in the third quarter to pull away from the Bobcats.

Rockets 98, Thunder 96

In Oklahoma City, Tracy McGrady scored 26 points and made two critical free throws with 8 seconds left to help Houston edge Oklahoma City.

McGrady had missed two of the Rockets' previous three games due to a left knee injury.

Raptors 103, Grizzlies 82

In Toronto, Chris Bosh had 32 points and 10 rebounds to lead Toronto over Memphis.

Bosh shot 11-for-13 from the field and 10-for-12 from the line to help Toronto pull away in the fourth quarter and extend its home winning streak to a season-high three games.

Andrea Bargnani added 21 points. He is averaging 21.7 points as a starter in the past six games in place of injured Jermaine O'Neal.

Memphis has lost 11 of its past 13 and has been held under 90 five time in the past six games. The Grizzlies have lost five straight on the road, for a season total of 2-15 away from home.

Bulls 98, Wizards 86

In Chicago, the home team hung on after watching a 21-point lead dwindle to seven in the fourth quarter.

Ben Gordon scored 22 points for the Bulls, who spent most of the night dominating the Eastern Conference's worst team, then hung on after a defensive lapse allowed the Wizards back into the game.

The Wizards were within 89-82 with just under three minutes left, but Gordon answered with a basket and the Bulls hung on.


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