LeBron makes history with epic display in win over Raptors

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TORONTO — LeBron James‘ friends were texting him during the Utah JazzHouston Rockets game Wednesday night and not getting any replies.

That’s because James was asleep by 10 p.m., part of a multiday effort to recover from the beating his body took over a grueling two-week series with the Indiana Pacers. James got nine hours of sleep and was doing almost nonstop recovery methods during the time he was awake.

James was so focused on refreshing himself that he underwent cupping therapy, something he hasn’t used for years. The technique uses suction cups across the body in an effort to promote healing. It has become a bit of a fad among NBA stars recently, with Russell Westbrook and James Harden being two of the players to have used it this postseason.

Whatever it was, the results were evident. James had an explosive Game 2 as he scored 43 points and tied his playoff career high with 14 assists in the Cleveland Cavaliers128-110 victory over the Toronto Raptors on Thursday night to take a 2-0 lead in their Eastern Conference semifinal series.

In NBA history, there have been 26 teams to win the first two games on the road in a seven-game series, and 22 of them have gone on to win the series. The Cavs have now won eight consecutive playoff games against the Raptors dating to 2016 and have won five straight at Air Canada Centre.

Some of James’ teammates said they had never seen him as worn down as he was Monday and Tuesday in the 48 hours after winning Game 7. Leg cramps that hit James on Sunday afternoon affected his recovery and preparation. But he was a different person by Thursday.

“This morning, you could just sense it,” said Kevin Love, who had his best game of the postseason with 31 points and 11 rebounds. “He knew what was at stake. He knew us getting another one at their place was going to be huge for us, and he came out and played that way from the jump tonight. Like I said, you could just sense that he was going to have a special night.”

James was practicing fadeaway shots during the morning shootaround, calling them out before doing so as teammates watched him rain them in.

“I gave [teammates] a little inside of my mind,” James said. “And I showed ’em tonight as well.”

He called his shot again at halftime Thursday night.

The Raptors shot 60 percent in the first half and had a two-point lead. But James made a jumper just before the half when the Raptors backed off of him and challenged him to shoot. As he walked down the hallway from the floor to the visitors locker room, James ran into his agent, Rich Paul.

“I know what I have to do now,” James told Paul. “I’ve just got to focus on it. I’ve got it.”

What James meant was he wanted to take advantage of the Raptors going under screens and leaving him space. James made two face-up jumpers against the scheme early in the third quarter as the Cavs took the lead and starting gaining momentum.

“I pretty much know the scouting report on me is going to be to dare me to shoot jump shots and keep me out of the paint, not allow me to go to the free throw line,” James said. “Over the course of my career, I just try to put a lot of work into other facets of my game to try to neutralize their game plan.”

Then James went to posting up and put on a clinic that morphed into a demoralizing display of skill. He made seven fadeways, burning Raptors defenders Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby repeatedly. It was tied for the most fadeaways in a playoff game in the past 15 years, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

The Raptors contested 26 of James’ 28 shots overall, but he made 17 of them. It added up to the fourth 40-point game James has had in this postseason, which ties his career high for such games in the playoffs. He had four in 2009.

“The ball was popping, guys were feeling involved, everybody felt their comfort [zone],” James said. “No matter at home or on the road, you want to try to play that type of basketball.”

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