Pac­ers snap James’ play­off streak

James Har­den’s 44 points pow­ers Hous­ton Rock­ets

Kuwait Times - - Sport -

NEW YORK: 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. “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 post­sea­son 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.

James said fall­ing be­hind in a se­ries just mo­ti­vates him to step up his game. “I’m down 0-1 in the first round. I was down 3-1 in the fi­nals. So I’m the last guy to ask about what I’m gonna be like the next cou­ple days,” James said.

In the late game, league MVP can­di­date James Har­den ex­ploded for 44 points as the Hous­ton Rock­ets beat the Min­ne­sota Tim­ber­wolves 104-101. 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.

“You can’t ease into the play­offs,” said Cavs coach Ty­ronn Lue. “I thought (In­di­ana) came in and they at­tacked us.” 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.


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 and 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. Khris Mid­dle­ton added 31 points, hit­ting five-of-seven three-point­ers, with eight re­bounds and six as­sists in a los­ing cause. In Hous­ton, Har­den led a big fourth-quar­ter run as the top-seeded Rock­ets held off the Tim­ber­wolves in game one. Har­den made seven-of-12 three point­ers but the Rock­ets had their hands full with the eighth seeded Tim­ber­wolves.

Min­ne­sota star Karl-An­thony Towns failed to get un­tracked Sun­day, scor­ing just eight points, well be­low his sea­son av­er­age of 21.3 points. An­drew Wig­gins had 18 points for Min­ne­sota, who are mak­ing their first play­off ap­pear­ance since 2004. —AFP

CLEVE­LAND: Cory Joseph #6 of the In­di­ana Pac­ers dives for the ball in front of LeBron James #23 of the Cleve­land Cava­liers dur­ing the sec­ond half Game One of the Eastern Con­fer­ence Quar­ter­fi­nals dur­ing the 2018 NBA Play­offs at Quicken Loans Arena on Sun­day in Cleve­land, Ohio. — AFP

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