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LeBron lifts Cavaliers to 3-0 series lead

LEBRON James and Cleveland made the Detroit Pistons' inspired effort moot as the visiting Cavaliers won 79-68 for a 3-0 lead in the NBA first-round playoff series yesterday.

The Pistons, whose collective heart was questioned by one of their players, played hard for three-plus quarters before being rendered helpless by James.

He had an alley-oop slam midway through the fourth quarter during an 18-2 run that started after the sixth tie of the game.

He finished with 25 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists, and had help, getting a career playoff-high 19 points and 10 rebounds from Joe Smith, and 13 points from Zydrunas Ilgauskas.

The Pistons will host Game 4 tomorrow, needing a surprising showing to extend the series.

76ers 96, Magic 94

At Philadelphia, Thaddeus Young's driving layup with 2 seconds left lifted Philadelphia to a surprising 2-1 lead over Orlando in an Eastern Conference first-round series.

Game 4 of the best-of-seven series is tomorrow night at the Wachovia Center. The Sixers, who stumbled into the playoffs with six losses in their last seven games and a 41-41 record, are two wins away from their second playoff series victory since Allen Iverson led them to the NBA finals in 2001.

Dwight Howard had 36 points and 11 rebounds for the Magic, who won 59 games during the regular season. Andre Iguodala led the Sixers with 29 points, though he missed two free throws in the final minute. Andre Miller added 24 and Young had six.

Rockets 86, Trail Blazers 83

At Houston, Luis Scola scored 19 points as Houston beat Portland to take a 2-1 lead in their first-round playoff series.

Shane Battier added 16 points and the Rockets got away with a quiet night from Yao Ming to beat the Blazers for the 11th time in the last 12 meetings in Houston. Game 4 is tomorrow at the Toyota Center.

Brandon Roy, who scored 42 points in Portland's 107-103 win in Game 2, had 19 points, but went 6-for-18 from the field. Steve Blake scored 16 and had 10 assists, and Rudy Fernandez sank five 3-pointers and finished with 17 points for the Blazers, who trailed by 17 in the second half before rallying in the final quarter.


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