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Cavs turn off 'soap opera' in 105-97 win over Raptors



Published: Wed, February 9, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



LeBron, Ilgauskas lead 104-91 victory; benched Raptor walked out

CLEVELAND (AP) -- Rafer Alston wasn't around for the end of the Toronto Raptors' 104-91 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. He wasn't even in the arena.

The Raptors' Alston left Gund Arena during the fourth quarter Tuesday night after coach Sam Mitchell benched him with 3:46 remaining in the first quarter.

"It's like one big soap opera," Raptors forward Morris Peterson said.

Mitchell, who suspended Alston for two games for storming out of a practice late last month, was guarded in his postgame comments.

"It's a basketball thing that Rafer and I have to sort out," said the first-year coach. "Rafer is determined in his way and I'm determined in my way.

"He is struggling with some basketball things and I wasn't planning on playing him in the second half. I expect him to play tomorrow and expect him to be a starter."

When the Raptors played in Cleveland on Dec. 4, Alston was held out of the starting lineup after getting a critical technical foul in a two-point loss in Boston the previous night, then saying he would quit the NBA.

Alston came back to play 37 minutes and scored a team-high 20 points in a 105-97 loss at Gund Arena that night.

This time, Raptors general manager Rob Babcock spoke up for Alston, who signed a six-year, $30 million contract last summer.

"Rafer didn't do anything to warrant a suspension at all," Babcock said. "I don't think Rafer is letting the team down at all. They [Mitchell and Alston] have to work on their relationship."

Playing like all-stars

LeBron James had 15 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas, named an All-Star reserve earlier in the day, led the Cavs with 23 points on 8-for-13 shooting from the field. He had six rebounds and three blocked shots.

"LeBron was passing well and 'Z' was taking it to the hoop strong," Cavaliers coach Paul Silas said. "Yeah, they played like All-Stars."

Ilgauskas scored 13 points and James had six assists in the first quarter as Cleveland quickly took command.

James' best play came in the first five minutes when he appeared primed to turn an alley-oop pass from rookie Sasha Pavlovic into one of his patented power slams. But the pass was slightly off the mark, so James deftly tipped it down and into the hoop instead.

Cavs in 1st place

Robert Traylor added 15 points and a career-high 13 rebounds off the bench for the Cavaliers, who improved to 18-4 at home and tied Detroit for first place in the Central Division at 28-19.

Jalen Rose scored 21 points to lead Toronto.

"I'm not going to comment about anything except what happened during the game," Rose said. "I'm pretty sure we're going to have enough people with a big enough mouth to eventually leak the story about what happened."

The Cavaliers opened a 19-point lead and led 57-43 at halftime.

Cleveland improved to 2-0 with games remaining against Denver, the Los Angeles Lakers and Atlanta in an important five-game homestand.

Toronto forward Chris Bosh, who had a career-high 29 points Sunday, scored six on 2-for-8 shooting.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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