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James’ long-range shooting beats Bulls

CLEVELAND — Joakim Noah had to go back for one more look.

Walking slowly across the confetti-littered court, Noah stopped at the spot just outside the arc where LeBron James had pulled up in his face and made a 3-pointer.

“That’s a long way,” Noah said, shaking his head in disbelief as he looked at the distant rim. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

The Chicago Bulls kept daring James to shoot jumpers.

He obliged.

“They were telling me I can’t make jump shots,” James said. “They asked me to shoot a jumper so I did that. Over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again.”

James scored 40 points — 15 in a tour-de-force fourth quarter — as the Cavaliers, fueled by a rabid home crowd that booed every move by Noah, maintained home-court advantage by beating the Bulls 112-102 on Monday night to take a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

James added eight rebounds and eight assists for the Cavs, who led 96-93 with 4:30 left before the league’s soon-to-be-two-time MVP took over. He hit his 3 with the 6-foot-11 Noah coming at him and followed with a quick dance move and wink directed at Chicago’s talkative bench.

James then made two free throws, a layup and two jumpers, scoring 11 straight points as Cleveland opened a 107-98 lead with 1:36 left.

When James came off the bench in the fourth, teammate J.J. Hickson touched his fingers to his forearm the same way a baseball manager would to summon a closer from the bullpen.

In came basketball’s version of Mariano Rivera.

“They call me the closer every time I come in in the fourth quarter,” James said. “It’s my time to put the game away or do what I do best and that’s try to close the game the right way.”

Noah, who drew the ire of Cleveland fans by criticizing the city’s lack of downtown activity, had 25 points and 13 rebounds.

Afterward, the most brazen of the Bulls, said he had no regrets about his comments.

“Not at all,” Noah said. “You like it? You think Cleveland’s cool? I never heard anybody say I’m going to Cleveland on vacation. What’s so good about Cleveland?”

Derrick Rose added 23 points and Luol Deng had 20 for the Bulls, who will head home for Game 3 on Thursday night.

Noah didn’t make much of the incessant booing. He’s heard it before.

“My whole life I’ve been booed,” Noah said. “College I was booed a lot. Boston they don’t like me over there. They don’t like me here, either. It’s OK. I have my friends.”