Cavaliers puts Raptors on brink, Spurs topples Rockets

LeBron James scored 35 points as the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Toronto Raptors 115-94 on Friday to take a 3-0 stranglehold lead in their second-round NBA playoff series.

Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) drives past San Antonio Spurs guard Danny Green (14) during the first half in Game 3 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series on Friday.   -  AP

LeBron James scored 35 points as the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Toronto Raptors 115-94 on Friday to take a 3-0 stranglehold lead in their second-round NBA playoff series.

James also tallied eight rebounds and seven assists as Cleveland will seek to clinch the series with a win in game four on Sunday in Toronto. "When we're getting stops, we're a dangerous team," Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. "It was an all-round good game for us rebounding, offensively and defensively, so we just have to keep that up."

Elsewhere, LaMarcus Aldridge scored 26 points as the San Antonio Spurs used a barrage of late three pointers to overcome James Harden's 43-point performance to beat the Houston Rockets 103-92 in their playoff series.

The Raptors played without star point guard Kyle Lowry who sprained his ankle in Wednesday's loss in Cleveland. Toronto led by three points at half-time but the Cavaliers kept pressing in the third and seized command in the fourth.

James was instrumental in the comeback, scoring 13 points in the final quarter. Lowry took part in the warm-up and was listed as active for the game, but Cory Joseph started in his place. Lowry remained on the bench for the whole game.

Kevin Love delivered 16 points and 13 rebounds for the Cavaliers, and Kyrie Irving also scored 16 while Kyle Korver had 14 points. Tristan Thompson added nine points and 12 rebounds. DeMar DeRozan rebounded from a poor performance in game two to lead Toronto with 37 points.

"I liked our fight, I loved the way our guys competed," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. "There was no back down."

Casey was unusually optimistic considering his team was looking at this game as an important opportunity to play their way back into the series.

No answer for James

Its playoff exit appears to be nearing as it has no answer for James, who scored 39 points in game two on Wednesday to move past Kareem Abdul-Jabbar into second place on the all-time playoff scoring list.

"We couldn't get anything to fall for us and they turned it on offensively and ran away with it," said DeRozan.

Jonas Valanciunas scored 19 points and eight rebounds, with Norman Powell chipping in with 13 points and Serge Ibaka adding 12 for Toronto.

In Houston, Aldridge was especially dangerous from in the paint in game three as the Spurs took a 2-1 lead in the second-round Western Conference series. He shot 12-of-20 from the field, a much better performance than the four points he scored in Houston's one-sided win in game one.

Game four is scheduled for Sunday in Houston.

Kawhi Leonard added 26 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. Trevor Ariza tallied 17 points for Houston but had just two after half-time. The Rockets’ three-man bench of Eric Gordon, Nene and Lou Williams combined for 10 points on three-of-19 shooting.

Houston shot just 36 percent from the field and couldn't keep pace with San Antonio, who were playing without injured point guard Tony Parker. Parker will miss the remainder of the 2017 postseason after suffering a ruptured left quadriceps tendon in the fourth quarter of game two.

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