LOS ANGELES (AFP, REUTERS) - LeBron James scored 45 points to lead the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 105-101 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Sunday (April 29) and into the second round of the National Basketball Association play-offs.
Facing elimination in the first round for the first time, James produced his third 40-point game of the series.
Humbled 121-87 by the Pacers in game six, Cleveland wrapped up the best-of-seven Eastern Conference series four games to three and set up a second-round clash with East top seeds Toronto.
In the other game, James Harden scored a game-high 41 points, and the Houston Rockets turned a blistering first half into a 110-96 victory over the Utah Jazz at Toyota Centre in Game 1 of their Western Conference semi-final series.
In Cleveland, James' determination was evident from the opening tip-off.
He made his first seven shots from the floor and finished the first half with 26 points, five assists and four rebounds.
The Cavaliers pulled down 11 offensive rebounds in the first half and while Indiana shot a respectable 54.8 per cent in the half but their 31 attempts from the floor were 17 fewer than Cleveland's.
Leading by as many a 14 in the second quarter, Cleveland took a 54-43 lead into the break.
But the third-quarter woes that have bedevilled them surfaced again.
After surrendering just one turnover in the first half, Cleveland coughed up seven, leading to 10 Pacers points, in the third period.
Indiana took their first lead with 7:13 left in the third when Bojan Bogdanovic's three-pointer gave them a 59-58 edge.
A determined Victor Oladipo scored 14 of his 30 points in the quarter, but Cleveland emerged with a 76-74 lead going into the final frame after James departed for the locker room with little more than a minute remaining, reportedly to address leg cramping.
The Cavs would not surrender the lead in the final period. James returned and they stretched their lead to as many as 12 in the final period.
Oladipo's driving lay-up cut the deficit to four points with 50.1 seconds remaining but Cleveland, who had 15 points from Tristan Thompson, 14 from Kevin Love and 11 apiece from J.R. Smith and George Hill, held on.
Harden, meanwhile, converted 7 of 12 three-point attempts against the Jazz and added eight rebounds and seven assists to his line.
After Utah sliced what was once a 27-point deficit to 11 early in the fourth quarter, he restored order with three free throws, a three-pointer and a second-chance basket of his own miss.
"He's a special player," said Jazz coach Quin Snyder. "It's hard to give credit to all the things that he does. He just impacts the game in so many mays. You have to try to make it harder for him."
Clint Capela recorded a double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds while P.J. Tucker chipped in 15 points on 6-for-8 shooting, including 3-of-5 from behind the arc. Chris Paul tallied 17 points, six assists and four steals for the Rockets, who will host Game 2 on Wednesday night.
Donovan Mitchell and Jae Crowder scored 21 points apiece for the Jazz, coming off a gruelling, seven-game series against Oklahoma City that concluded late on Friday. Joe Ingles added 15 points, six rebounds and five assists, while Rudy Gobert totalled 11 points and nine boards but failed to have an impact on the game defensively.