NEW YORK, United States (AFP) — Forget LeBron James making his eighth consecutive trip to the NBA Finals. The Cleveland Cavaliers star might have trouble just getting out of the opening round of the playoffs.
Victor Oladipo scored a game-high 32 points to power the Indiana Pacers over the host Cavaliers 98-80 on Sunday in the opening game of their first-round NBA playoff series.
“Stay calm, stay composed, play the game I have all year long,” Oladipo said of the key to his overwhelming day.
“My teammates did a great job of making plays and getting stops like we have all year long. This was a great team win.”
James had won 21 first-round playoff games in a row until the rout, having never before lost the opener in a first-round NBA post-season series.
James, seeking his ninth career trip to the NBA Finals and fourth league title, had not dropped a first-round playoff game since the New York Knicks beat Miami in the fourth game of the 2012 opening round, a minor setback on the Heat’s title run, a career first for James.
The Pacers jumped ahead 33-14 after the first quarter and led by as much as 23 in holding off the Cavs, who came no closer than seven points the rest of the way.
“We got out hard defensively, showing LeBron some bodies,” Oladipo said. “I’m not worried what we showed (people). I’m worried about my team and coming out to play one game at a time until we beat them.”
James had a triple double in a losing cause with 24 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists. The rest of Cleveland’s starters only managed 25 points, Kevin Love with 17 rebounds but only nine points.
J.R. Smith had 15 points off the Cavaliers’ bench while Myles Turner had 16 points and Bojan Bogdanovic added 15 for Indiana.
The Cavaliers had their lowest-scoring first period of the season and only five baskets with six turnovers in the opening quarter, drawing boos as they walked off at half-time trailing 59-38.
Cleveland pulled within 73-65 entering the fourth quarter but the Pacers unleashed a 12-2 run for an 88-71 edge and cruised to the finish.
Celtics edge Bucks in OT
The Boston Celtics nearly fell victim to another Eastern Conference opening upset bid before edging visiting Milwaukee 113-107 in overtime.
Al Horford scored 24 points and grabbed 12 rebounds for Boston while Terry Rozier, starting in place of injured Kyrie Irving, added 23 points. Marcus Morris scored 21 off the bench while Jaylen Brown netted 20 and Jayson Tatum contributed 19 points and 10 rebounds for the Celtics.
“We’ve been down a lot, a lot of injuries, and we’ve always found a way,” Horford said. “Morris made some big shots, Tatum down the stretch, Terry — that’s what we’re all about. We just find a way.”
Greek star Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 35 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists and gave the Celtics headaches until fouling out in overtime.
“He’s a great player,” Horford said. “He knows how to finish around the rim. He has great touch. We tried to contain him as best we could. We made a lot of turnovers. We have to work on that. I’m just glad we got this first win.”
Khris Middleton added 31 points, hitting five-of-seven three-pointers, with eight rebounds and six assists in a losing cause.
The Bucks, who have not won a NBA playoff series since 2001, have been losers in seven consecutive first-round playoff series.
Rozier, making his first playoff start, sank a three-pointer with a half-second remaining to give Boston the lead but Middleton drilled another equalizer from halfway between the arc and half-court at the final buzzer to force over-time at 99-99.
© Agence France-Presse