CAVA­LIERS LEAD TEAMS ON PLAY­OFF UP­SET ALERT

USA TODAY International Edition - - SPORTS - Jeff Zill­gitt

We knew this year’s NBA play­offs could be dif­fer­ent.

Sev­eral se­ries in the first round could go ei­ther way, and we’re see­ing that de­velop af­ter the first week­end of games, with two higher seeds los­ing the se­ries opener, an­other high seed re­quir­ing over­time and a No. 1 seed hav­ing trou­ble with a No. 8.

The West­ern Con­fer­ence is deep. Min­ne­sota was the fi­nal team in but fin­ished the reg­u­lar sea­son one game out of fourth place. The Tim­ber­wolves are not a nor­mal eight seed, as James Harden pointed out. They’re sim­i­lar to an NCAA tour­na­ment team that was un­der­seeded.

The play­offs were un­usual be­fore they even started — the top three seeds in the Eastern weren’t the odd­s­mak­ers’ fa­vorites to win the con­fer­ence ti­tle.

That was Cleve­land, the fourth seed, which lost Game 1 to fifth-seeded In­di­ana. In­juries could play a role, too. Al­though Bos­ton beat Mil­wau­kee in Game 1, the Celtics are with­out Kyrie Irv­ing, Mar­cus Smart, Daniel Theis and Gor­don Hay­ward.

A look at three up­set pos­si­bil­i­ties in the first round.

In­di­ana (5) vs. Cleve­land (4)

It’s early, and LeBron James pointed out he’s been down 3-1 in the NBA Fi­nals and won the se­ries, so he’s not go­ing to freak out about los­ing Game 1 of the first round. And James’ track record in the first round is spot­less. He’s never lost a first-round se­ries.

While not in dan­ger yet, the Cavs need to win Game 2.

They were hor­ri­ble of­fen­sively in Game 1, and for starters, they need to make more shots.

They’re one of the best of­fen­sive teams in the league and scored just 80 points be­cause of poor shoot­ing, in­clud­ing 23.5% on three-point­ers.

The Pac­ers know they can beat the Cavs, too, and not just be­cause of Game 1. In­di­ana beat Cleve­land three of four times dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son.

New Or­leans (6) vs. Port­land (3)

This is not your nor­mal 6 vs. 3 matchup ei­ther, with the Pel­i­cans fin­ish­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son one game be­hind the Blaz­ers. The Pel­i­cans took Game 1 on the road against a team that, led by All-Star Damian Lil­lard, was one of the hottest in the West in the sec­ond half of the sea­son.

New Or­leans star An­thony Davis gives the Pel­i­cans a great chance. He’s an MVP can­di­date, one of the most tal­ented play­ers in the league. He had 35 points, 14 re­bounds and four blocks in Game 1. The Pel­i­cans also have an ex­pe­ri­enced guard in Ra­jon Rondo. He had 17 as­sists. But the X fac­tor is guard Jrue Hol­i­day, who is tremen­dously un­der­rated. He might be the one who can swing the se­ries.

He can guard Lil­lard on one end and score on the other. Lil­lard was 6-for-23 in Game 1, and Hol­i­day had 21 points, seven re­bounds and two blocks — in­clud­ing one in the fi­nal sec­onds.

Mil­wau­kee (7) vs. Bos­ton (2)

Bos­ton won Game 1 but needed over­time against the Bucks, who have one of the league’s best in Gian­nis An­te­tok­oun­mpo (35 points, 13 re­bounds, seven as­sists in the opener).

The Bucks made de­fen­sive ad­just­ments in the sec­ond half, but they need to limit what main scor­ers Jayson Ta­tum, Jaylen Brown, Al Hor­ford, Terry Rozier and Mar­cus Mor­ris can do (they com­bined for 107 of Bos­ton’s 113 points in Game 1). The Bucks also need more of­fen­sive pro­duc­tion from Jabari Parker and Eric Bled­soe, who scored a to­tal of 11 points on 17 shots in the opener.

Vic­tor Oladipo (4) and the Pac­ers routed the Cava­liers in Game 1 of their first-round se­ries on Sun­day. Cleve­land scored just 80 points and shot a mea­ger 23.5% on three-point­ers. DAVID RICHARD/USA TO­DAY SPORTS

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