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James, Shaq lead Cavs’ win

CLEVELAND — LeBron James and Shaquille O’Neal have only one goal, and they moved one step closer to their objective on Saturday.

Cleveland’s superstars, separated for a large chunk of the regular season, combined for 36 points and seven blocks as the Cavaliers opened the Eastern Conference playoffs with a 96-83 win over the Chicago Bulls.

James had 24 points and four blocks and a slimmed-down O’Neal, playing for the first time since Feb. 25, scored 12 in 24 minutes as the top-seeded Cavs won a testy opener between two teams that obviously don’t care for each other.

Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is Monday in Cleveland.

Derrick Rose had 28 points and 10 assists for Chicago, which trimmed a 22-point deficit in the third quarter down to seven in the fourth.

But James converted a three-point play with 2:29 left and Mo Williams followed with a 3-pointer to put Cleveland up 94-81.

After they were eliminated in the Eastern Conference finals last May by Orlando, the Cavaliers went out and traded for O’Neal, a four-time NBA champion and icon. O’Neal was brought in not only to combat Magic center Dwight Howard but to help James win his first title and deliver Cleveland its first championship in any major pro sport since 1964.