Raptors top Magic for 2-1 lead

ORLANDO, Fla. — The Toronto Raptors think Pascal Siakam should be selected the NBA’s Most Improved Player.

He was their MVP on Friday night.

And the East’s No. 2 seed has the home-court edge back again.

Siakam had 30 points and 11 rebounds, hitting a floater with 1:33 left to help snuff out a big Orlando rally and the Raptors held off the Magic 98-93 to take a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference first-round series.

“He’s unbelievable,” Raptors guard Kyle Lowry said. “He’s the most improved basketball player in the NBA this year and he’s only going to get better.”

Siakam was 13 for 20 from the floor and the Raptors held Orlando to 36% shooting.

“It’s just taking what a defense gives us and going with it,” Siakam said.

Kawhi Leonard — battling illness this week — had 16 points and 10 rebounds. Danny Green had 13 points and Lowry finished with 12 points and 10 assists, plus ran down a huge offensive rebound with about 15 seconds left to extend a critical possession and spoil Orlando’s first home playoff game since 2012.

“It was really what I thought it was going to be tonight,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “I really thought this was going to be a tough atmosphere to play in.”

Terrence Ross led Orlando with 24 points, and Nikola Vucevic shook off a slow start to finish with 22 points and 14 rebounds.

Game 4 is Sunday night in Orlando.

Celtics close to sweep

INDIANAPOLIS — Jaylen Brown scored 23 points and Kyrie Irving added 19 to help the Boston Celtics beat the Indiana Pacers 104-96 on Friday night for a 3-0 lead in the first-round series.

The Celtics can close out the Eastern Conference series Sunday in Indianapolis.

Irving also had 10 assists and five rebounds.

Tyreke Evans matched his career playoff high with 19 points for the Pacers. Bojan Bogdanovic had 15, not enough to prevent Indiana from losing its sixth straight to Boston in the regular season and playoff.

Indiana desperately needed a win to avoid facing its second sweep in three years, but Boston started fast and closed it with a 10-4 spurt late in the fourth quarter.

And once again, Boston’s defense turned the game by allowing just 12 points in the third quarter.

It’s been that kind of series for Indiana, which erased a 15-point first half deficit to take a 61-59 halftime lead. Myles Turner opened the third with a 3-pointer to make it a five-point game.

But Boston charged back with eight straight points to retake the lead, closed the quarter on a 9-2 run to make it 80-73 and pulled away late.

The Celtics took control quickly by going 8 of 10 on 3s in the first quarter to build a 37-22 lead.

Evans finally got the Pacers righted with 12 second-quarter points including bookend 3s to start and finish the 17-3 spurt that allowed Indiana to tie it at 52. The Pacers closed the half on a 9-2 run to take the lead.

Warriors shut down LA

LOS ANGELES — He’s Kevin Durant, and the Los Angeles Clippers got reminded of it.

Durant scored 38 points, Stephen Curry added 21 playing with five fouls, and the Golden State Warriors dominated from the opening tip to win 132-105 Thursday night and take a 2-1 lead in their first-round playoff series.

“He came out super-aggressive, in kill mode,” teammate Draymond Green said of Durant. “That was all the difference for us. We took control of the game right there in the first quarter and never lost control of it.”

The Warriors began the game on a 22-9 tear and went on to shoot 73% from the floor in the first, taking the crowd out of it early.

Durant was perfect, making all five of his field goals and both free throws for 12 points. He and Curry picked up two fouls each, but the Warriors still built a 19-point lead.

“As much momentum as we lost in the final 16 minutes of Game 2, we got it all back early,” Curry said. “Everybody was aggressive, decisive, getting good shots on every possession. The way we went about our business was the sign of a resilient team.”

Game 4 is Sunday at Staples Center.

Kevon Looney, again filling in for injured DeMarcus Cousins, shot 4 for 4 in the first, dunking three times in a row.

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