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 April 15 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 post-season 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.
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.
In the late game, league MVP candidate James Harden exploded for 44 points as the Houston Rockets beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 104-101.
The Boston Celtics nearly fell victim to another Eastern Conference opening upset bid before edging visiting Milwaukee 113-107 in overtime.