CLEVELAND, United States, Apr 16 – The NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers escaped with a 109-108 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Saturday in the opening game of the 2017 playoffs.
Indiana’s C.J. Miles missed a wide-open jump shot at the buzzer after the Cavaliers, as they often did in the waning stages of the regular-season, let the game get complicated toward the end.
“It doesn’t matter how you get a win in the playoffs. We’re one-up,” said Cavs superstar LeBron James, who led all scorers with 32 points and also handed out 13 assists and pulled down six rebounds.
Elsewhere on Saturday, Kawhi Leonard equalled his career playoff high with 32 points as the San Antonio Spurs seized control in the third quarter en route to a 111-82 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies in game one of their first-round Western Conference series.
James has now won 18 playoff openers, but he and the Cavs cut it close in this one.
James missed a three-pointer with 20 seconds left and the Pacers had the ball coming out of a timeout.
Miles got loose, but his effort bounced off the rim.
Pacers star Paul George finished with 29 points. His three-pointer with four seconds left had cut the Cavs’ lead to one point, setting the stage for Miles’s attempt at a game-winner.
George complained after the game that he should have been the one to attempt the game winner.
“Situations like that, I gotta get the last shot,” George said.
Kyrie Irving scored 23 points and Kevin Love added 17, 15 of them in the first half for Cleveland, who led by 12 points late in the third quarter and were up by 10 with 9:04 remaining before the Pacers rallied.
Jeff Teague’s three-pointer with 3:31 to play put the Pacers up by two — after six straight empty possessions for the Cavs.
But James immediately responded with a driving dunk and the Pacers wouldn’t get ahead again.
In San Antonio, the Spurs led 74-64 with just under two minutes to play in the third quarter but closed the quarter on a 10-0 run. The Spurs added the first nine points of the fourth quarter to compile 93-64 lead.
Leonard seized control in the third quarter, pumping in 15 points — the same amount as the entire Memphis team — before sitting out the fourth with the game already in hand.
The Spurs are making their 20th straight post-season appearance, tied for third all-time.
Game two of the best-of-seven series is Monday in San Antonio.
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.
Malcolm Brogdon delivered 16 points for the Bucks, Greg Monroe finished with 14 points and 15 rebounds, Tony Snell and Matthew Dellavedova added 11 points each for the Bucks.
DeMar DeRozan led the Raptors with 27 points and grabbed nine rebounds, Serge Ibaka added 19 points and 14 rebounds, and Jonas Valanciunas had nine points and nine rebounds.
The Raptors’ first-game woes continued as they fell to 0-9 in openers of first round playoff series. They are a dismal 1-10 overall in game ones.
– Johnson strikes final blow –
In Los Angeles, Joe Johnson hit the clutch winner as time expired, lifting the Utah Jazz to a 97-95 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center.
Jazz star centre Rudy Gobert went down clutching his left knee less than 20 seconds into the contest after bumping knees with Clippers forward Luc Mbah a Moute.
Gobert, who had to be helped off the court and carried into the locker room, is expected to undergo a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan Saturday night to determine the severity of the injury.