Pacers halt James' playoff streak

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.

LeBron James (left) of the Cleveland Cavaliers goes to the basket past Victor Oladipo of the Indiana Pacers in Game 1 of their first-round Eastern Conference series in the NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland on Sunday. 

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 Cavaliers 98-80 in Cleveland on Sunday in the opening game of their first-round Eastern Conference 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 am 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 7 points the rest of the way.

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 9 points.

JR Smith had 15 points off the Cavaliers’ bench while Myles Turner had 16 points and Bojan Bogdanovic added 15 for Indiana.

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.

Greek star Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 35 points, 13 rebounds and 7 assists and gave the Celtics headaches until fouling out in overtime.

Khris Middleton added 31 points, hitting 5-of-7 3-pointers, with 8 rebounds and 6 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 1.

Harden made 7-of-12 3-pointers but the Rockets had their hands full with the eighth-seeded Timberwolves.

Minnesota star Karl-Anthony Towns failed to get untracked on Sunday, scoring just 8 points, well below his season average of 21.3 points.

Andrew Wiggins had 18 points for Minnesota, which is making its first playoff appearance since 2004.

In another West opener, the Oklahoma City Thunder saw off the visiting Utah Jazz 116-108

Paul George scored 36 points, setting an Oklahoma City playoff record with 8 3-pointers, blowing past the previous record of 5. Russell Westbrook had 29 points, 13 rebounds and 8 assists for the Thunder.

Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell had 27 points and 10 rebounds.

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