James bails out Cavs in opener

Kevin Love of the Cleveland Cavaliers grabbing a first half rebound next to Myles Turner of the Indiana Pacers in Game One of the Easter Conference Quarterfinals during the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena on April 15, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio
Kevin Love of the Cleveland Cavaliers grabbing a first half rebound next to Myles Turner of the Indiana Pacers in Game One of the Easter Conference Quarterfinals during the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena on April 15, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio.PHOTO: AFP

His 32pts are just enough for reigning champs as Pacers rue missing winner at the buzzer

CLEVELAND (Ohio) • The Cleveland Cavaliers were going to stop at nothing to get the ball out of Paul George's hands with the clock winding down.

The idea was to get a stop.

The National Basketball Association (NBA) champions got the one they needed when C.J. Miles missed a wide-open jumper at the buzzer, and the Cavaliers beat the Indiana Pacers 109-108 in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference first-round series on Saturday.

Cleveland blitzed George and made him toss the ball to Miles, who spun around Richard Jefferson but missed the 14-foot jumper.

"We wanted to get the ball out of (George's) hands, make somebody else try to beat us and live with the results," said Cavaliers star LeBron James, who led all scorers with 32 points to go with 13 assists and six rebounds.

James' teams have an 18-game winning streak in the first round and are 45-7 lifetime.

  • 18-0

  • LeBron James' winning streak in the first round of the NBA play-offs.

However, he missed a three- pointer with 20 seconds left to set the Pacers up for one more shot. The Cavaliers led by 12 late in the third quarter and were ahead by 10 with 9min 4sec remaining.

They fell behind on Jeff Teague's three-pointer with 3:31 to go. James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love had missed the last six shots for Cleveland.

The Cavaliers also shot just 14-of-27 from the foul line, which included misses by James and J.R. Smith inside of one minute that nearly came back to haunt them.

"I addressed it after the game," Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said. "We can play better and we will play better. We missed 13 free throws, turned the ball over and got 19 points in transition. And just cleaned up a few things.

"The play-offs are about adjustments and what you can do better. I just thought if we got to those 50-50 balls and the offensive rebounds that it'd have been a totally different game. Hats off, they played well. But we'll be better.

George finished with 29 points for the Pacers. His three-pointer with 40 seconds left cut the Cavaliers' lead to within a point.

After scoring 43 points in a loss to the Cavaliers on April 2, he was clearly the primary worry for a Cleveland defence that often shadowed him with an extra defender.

"Being up one and 20 seconds on the clock that was a surprise getting trapped," George said. "Usually you try to force a turnover there early. Situations like that, I gotta get the last shot."

Irving scored 23 points and Love scored 15 of his 17 points in the first half for Cleveland.

Jeff Teague scored 15 points for the Pacers and Lance Stephenson came off the bench to score 16.

"We won the fourth quarter which we needed to do to close this game out," George said. "A lot of unforced turnovers and free throws we gave up. We gave up a lot of open threes by just not being on the same page. We limit that and we walk away up 1-0."

James passed Tim Duncan (1,975 field goals) for fifth place in play-off history in buckets.

He also recorded his 85th play-off game with at least 30 points, the third most in NBA history.

Game Two is today in Cleveland.

In Toronto, Giannis Antetokounmpo tallied 28 points and eight rebounds as the Milwaukee Bucks manhandled the Toronto Raptors 97-83 to open their Eastern Conference series.

DeMar DeRozan led the Raptors with 27 points.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 17, 2017, with the headline 'James bails out Cavs in opener'. Print Edition | Subscribe