Lebron James considered swigging a beer while scoring 35 points, Kyrie Irving added 24 and the Cleveland Cavaliers picked up where they left off following a long lay-off and throttled the Toronto Raptors 116-105 in the opener of their Eastern Conference semi-final.

The Cavs hadn't played since April 24, when they completed a four-game sweep of Indiana.

But the defending champions didn't show signs of rust and were well-prepared to face the revenge-seeking Raptors, who lost to Cleveland in last year's conference finals.

Toronto dropped to 1-12 in playoff openers. Game Two is on Thursday.

"As a team I think we had great energy, and even some of the mistakes that we had we were able to cover up for because our energy level was high," James said. "But we'll be a lot better (next game)."


Kyle Lowry scored 20 and DeMar DeRozan 19 for the Raptors, who were within seven in the third quarter before James dropped a three-pointer, converted a three-point play, drained another three and then considered washing down a brew.

After drawing a foul on a missed layup, James playfully hopped toward the sideline, where a courtside server was passing by. The three-time champion reached and grabbed a beer bottle from her tray and brought it toward his lips before putting it back.

By then, he and the Cavs had already downed the Raptors. With trade acquisitions Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker, this Toronto team seemed better equipped to beat Cleveland than the one which lost in six games in last year's playoffs.

Trouble is, James only seems to be getting better. After nearly averaging a triple-double against the Pacers, he reminded the Raptors that to move on they'll have to beat him.

Before the game, Toronto coach Dwane Casey talked about the big comebacks that have been a theme in these playoffs. The Raptors blew a 25-point lead to Milwaukee in the first round, while the Cavs overcame a 25-point deficit and pulled off the biggest second-half rally in playoff history. "There's no lead safe in the NBA," he said.

That's what happened to the Cavs in the first half as they built an 18-point lead only to watch the Raptors go on a 19-3 burst to pull within 41-39.

But Cleveland regrouped and, playing a turnover-free second quarter, led 62-48 at half. James' legs looked fresh early on as he and Irving teamed up on a stunning alley-oop.

After he poked the ball away for a steal, James took off up the floor with Irving on the break. James pointed toward the backboard and Irving understood the message, bouncing a pass high off the glass that James grabbed and dunked with his left hand.


The James Harden-led Houston Rockets demolished Patty Mills' San Antonio Spurs in game one of their NBA Western Conference semi-final series.

The Spurs were never in the game, an unusual situation for the five-time NBA champions. The Rockets won 126-99.

The Rockets were up 34-21 at the end of the first quarter, extended it to 69-39 at halftime and by the end of the third quarter maintained a commanding 96-67 lead.

Disillusioned Spurs fans began emptying out of AT&T Center early in the fourth quarter.

At one point the Rockets held a 39 point lead. "We need to get game two," Harden, who had 20 points, 14 assists and four steals, said. "This was good for us, but we have to get greedy."

The Spurs shot 37 per cent from the field to the Rockets' 46 per cent, a situation that was perfect for Harden and his fast-breaking Rockets.

"We disobeyed a lot of basic basketball rules," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "If we are going to shoot quickly and poorly there's going to be fast breaks all night long and they're better at that than what we are."

Canberra's Mills hit three of seven field goals for seven points and the Spurs' All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard sank just five of his 14 shots for 21 points. Popovich said there was little chance the Spurs would repeat such a poor effort in game two.

"There's not much coaches don't worry about, but that won't be one of them in all honesty," Popovich said.


The high-flying Golden State Warriors have generated a minor kerfuffle by suggesting they would have rather the LA Clippers progressed to meet them in the second round of the NBA Playoffs.

The reason? Utah, home of the Jazz team which knocked the Clippers out in seven games, is boring.

"No comparison. There's no such thing, man," Warriors veteran Matt Barnes told ESPN.com. "There's no night-life in Utah. Obviously, as players, you want to be able to have a little bit of a night-life."

"The problem with Utah is that you're just sitting there and your mind is, like, dead, because in LA, you still got energy for the game," added Andre Iguodala. "Because you're in LA, you're like, 'Man, this is just the vibe in LA' but in Utah, it can kind of lull you to sleep. And then you've slept too long or I'm bored out of my mind and now you got to try to pump yourself up for the game. You know you're in the playoffs and you're supposed to be pumped anyway, but the vibe is just like, 'Man, let's just get out of here.'"

Leave it to Jazz forward Joe Ingles to put the Warriors in their place with a bit of Aussie humour. "They can still go to LA between games if they want," Ingles told reporters. "They've got enough money to pay for a jet and go home and come back on game day.
"If they want the entertainment, they can drive to Vegas too if they really want. I'll hire a car for them."

The Warriors have been resting and waiting since last Tuesday to find out their opponent while the fifth-seeded Jazz played the only first-round series that went the distance.

"We come off a Game Seven win, you feel good, you have some momentum," said Jazz star Gordon Hayward, who scored 26 points in the series finale. "You can kind of keep it rolling a little bit."

The Jazz won three of four on the road in the opening round, including Game Seven in Los Angeles. It was a big boost of confidence for a team that hadn't won a playoff series since 2010.

"We've never been in the second round, so now that's another first," coach Quin Snyder said. "We don't have to prove that we're not young and inexperienced. We are. There's nothing wrong with that. Maybe that can be an advantage in some way."

The Warriors swept Portland 4-0 in their first-round series that ended a week ago. The time off has allowed them to heal some minor injuries.

Kevin Durant will be in the line-up after missing two games and being limited to 20 minutes in Game 4 against the Trail Blazers because of a strained left calf. Reserve Matt Barnes is probable to return from a foot strain, while reserve Shaun Livingston is questionable with a sprained finger on his right hand.

The Warriors haven't said whether coach Steve Kerr will be back. He missed the last two games of the first round because of complications from two back surgeries. Assistant Mike Brown took over in his absence.

Golden State took two out of three in the regular season from the Jazz, including a split on the Warriors' home floor.

The Warriors averaged 103 points to Utah's 90.66 in the three games. Two of them were decided by seven points or less, while the other was a 30-point blowout victory by the Warriors at home.

Utah's defence was the league's best in the regular season. "We've just got to keep pounding away," Jazz guard George Hill said. "Anything is possible. It's going to take all 15 guys."