First-game loss a first for James
CLEVELAND — Victor Oladipo scored 32 points and the Indiana Pacers held off Cleveland’s secondhalf rally for a stunning 98-80 victory Sunday in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference series, handing LeBron James and the Cavaliers’ their first loss in the opening round in eight years.
Indiana was in control from the outset, opening a 21-point lead in the first quarter and leading by 23 in the third. The Cavs stormed back and got within seven, but Oladipo hit a big 3-pointer and Bojan Bogdanovic helped put Cleveland away with a 3 to make it 88-71.
The Pacers completely outplayed the three-time defending conference champions, whose turbulent regular season has carried over into the playoffs.
Game 2 is Wednesday night. James scored 24 with 12 assists and 10 rebounds for his 20th career playoff triple-double. But James got little help as Cleveland’s four other starters — Kevin Love, Jeff Green, Rodney Hood and George Hill — combined for 25 points.
This is all new to James, who had won 21 consecutive first-round games. The 33-year-old is trying to get to his eighth straight Finals and already the path is tougher than imagined.
Cleveland had won 14 straight first-round games, last losing on April 22, 2010, the last season of James’ first stint with the Cavs.
Indiana was swept by Cleveland in last year’s opening round. Those Pacers, though, didn’t have Oladipo or the balance of this Indy squad, which may lack experience but not confidence.
Lance Stephenson, a longtime playoff nemesis for James, helped set the tone in the first quarter with a dunk he punctuated by throwing several punches into the padded basket stanchion.
The Pacers took the fight to the Cavs. They were more physical, more energetic and more composed.
Oladipo has become one of the NBA’s rising stars, and after being a role player in Oklahoma City, he’s Indiana’s main attraction and looked like a seasoned star on the playoff stage. He made six 3-pointers, swiped the ball from James on two occasions and more than doubled his previous playoff scoring high of 15.