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Raptors guard leaves after first-quarter benching

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.

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."

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

"LeBron was passing well and 'Z' was taking it to the hoop
strong," said Cavaliers coach Paul Silas. "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.

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.

Game notes
The Raptors fell to 4-21 on the road. The are 1-24 when
allowing 100 or more points. ... The Cavaliers wore their throwback
1976 gold home uniforms and introduced nine of their past All-Stars
at halftime. Former guards Mark Price and Austin Carr got the
biggest cheers. ... Cavs F Ira Newble, who had missed five games
with a strained left heel, had four points in 16 minutes. ...
Ilgauskas and James give Cleveland two All-Stars for the first time
since 1993.