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Oladipo scores 32 as Pacers hand LeBron rare first-round loss

  • LeBron James (23) drives to the basket against Indiana Pacers’ Victor Oladipo in the first half of Sunday’s game. AP

  • Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James, top, drives against Indiana Pacers' Domantas Sabonis, from Lithuania, in the first half of Game 1 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Sunday, April 15, 2018, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak) Tony Dejak

  • Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James, right, is stopped by Indiana Pacers' Domantas Sabonis, from Lithuania, in the first half of a first-round playoff series in an NBA basketball game, Sunday, April 15, 2018, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak) Tony Dejak

  • Indiana Pacers' Victor Oladipo (4) shoots against Cleveland Cavaliers' Rodney Hood (1) in the second half of Game 1 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Sunday, April 15, 2018, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak) Tony Dejak

  • Indiana Pacers forward Thaddeus Young (right) drives to the basket against Cleveland Cavaliers’ Cedi Osman in the second half of Sunday’s playoff game in Cleveland. AP

  • Indiana Pacers' Victor Oladipo, left, passes against Cleveland Cavaliers' Kevin Love in the second half of Game 1 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Sunday, April 15, 2018, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak) Tony Dejak

  • Indiana Pacers' Domantas Sabonis (11), from Lithuania, tries to pass the ball against Cleveland Cavaliers' Larry Nance Jr. (22) in the first half of Game 1 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Sunday, April 15, 2018, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak) Tony Dejak

  • Cleveland Cavaliers' George Hill (3) drives to the basket against Indiana Pacers' Myles Turner (33) in the first half of Game 1 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Sunday, April 15, 2018, in Cleveland. The Pacers won 98-80. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak) Tony Dejak

  • Indiana Pacers' Darren Collison (2) passes around Cleveland Cavaliers' Rodney Hood (1) in the first half of Game 1 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Sunday, April 15, 2018, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak) Tony Dejak

  • Indiana Pacers' Lance Stephenson, top, drives to the basket against Cleveland Cavaliers' Jeff Green in the second half of Game 1 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Sunday, April 15, 2018, in Cleveland. The Pacers won 98-80. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak) Tony Dejak

  • Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James, left, passes against Indiana Pacers' Bojan Bogdanovic, from Croatia, in the second half of Game 1 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Sunday, April 15, 2018, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak) Tony Dejak



Associated Press
Sunday, April 15, 2018

CLEVELAND – LeBron James figured he had experienced everything in 12 postseasons.

Turns out, there was something new.

Victor Oladipo scored 32 points and Indiana outplayed Cleveland from the start while pulling off a stunning 98-80 victory Sunday in the series opener, handing James and the Cavaliers’ their first loss in the opening round in eight years.

It also was the first playoff-opening loss for James, who came in 12-0 in Game 1s and didn’t realize he had been perfect starting the postseason.

“Is it?” James said. “I’ve never lost a game in the first round before in my career?”

But while he knows the narrative before Wednesday’s Game 2 will be on the struggles of Cleveland’s playoff newcomers, James isn’t worried.

“I’m down 0-1 in the first round,” he said. “I was down 3-1 in the Finals. So, I’m the last guy to ask about how you’re going to feel the next couple days.”

The Pacers are feeling confident after beating the Cavs for fourth time this season.

Indiana took control from the outset, opening a 21-point lead in the first quarter and pushing it to 23 in the third. The Cavs got within seven in the fourth, but Oladipo, once a role player who has blossomed into an All-Star in his first season with Indiana, hit a big 3-pointer and Bojan Bogdanovic helped put Cleveland away with a 3 to make it 88-71.

When the final horn sounded, the Pacers didn’t celebrate or run around the floor like they had accomplished anything special.

They calmly walked off, business as usual.

“We believe that we can win,” Oladipo said. “We came into this game with a mentality that we wanted to attack on both ends of the floor and play the way we’ve been playing all year, and we did a great job of that. It’s only one game, it’s only Game 1.”

The Pacers completely outplayed the three-time defending conference champions, whose turbulent regular season has carried over into the playoffs.

James scored 24 with 12 assists and 10 rebounds for his 20th career 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.

“They were more aggressive,” James said. “They just played inspired basketball and they just took advantage of everything we wanted to try and do. They were more physical than us at the point of attack, and they were most precise with what they wanted to do and we couldn’t score the ball.”

Cleveland went just 8 of 34 on 3-pointers and missed eight of 20 free throws.

The Cavs’ playoff theme is: “Whatever It Takes.”

Well, it’s now going to take a first-round comeback.

This is all new to James, who had won 21 consecutive first-round games and lost a postseason for the first time in his 13th playoffs. 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, and Indiana’s players are battling critics who say they can’t compete with Cleveland.

“We were definitely mad,” Stephenson said. “They still don’t believe. We’re just going to keep proving everyone wrong and play together.”

While some fans are getting their first look at Oladipo, the Pacers have seen this before.

“On this team, we all know what Victor can do when he steps on the court,” Thaddeus Young said. “You’ve got to double-team him because he makes good decisions with the basketball. When you don’t, you saw what he’s capable of.”

Thunder 116, Jazz 108

OKLAHOMA CITY – Paul George scored 36 points to help the Oklahoma City Thunder defeat the Utah Jazz, 116-108, in Game 1 of their Western Conference playoff series on Sunday night.

George set an Oklahoma City playoff record with eight 3-pointers, blowing past the previous record of five. He made eight of 11 shots from long range, and 13 of 20 shots overall. It was his first playoff game with the Thunder since being acquired in a trade with the Indiana Pacers in the offseason.

Russell Westbrook had 29 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists and Carmelo Anthony added 15 points for the Thunder, who will host Game 2 on Wednesday.

Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell had 27 points and 10 rebounds, but he left in the second half with left foot soreness. He returned in the fourth quarter but was noticeably hobbling.

Rudy Gobert scored 14 points, and Joe Ingles and Jae Crowder each added 13 for the Jazz.

The Thunder recovered from a 16-4 deficit to tie it at 25 at the end of the first quarter. Oklahoma City led 54-48 at halftime behind 20 points from George and 14 from Westbrook.

George hit his seventh 3-pointer to push Oklahoma City’s lead to 79-66. George hit a deep 2-pointer to close the quarter and give the Thunder an 81-72 lead.

Alex Abrines hit two 3-pointers early in the fourth quarter to give Oklahoma City a 92-80 lead and force Utah to call timeout. The Thunder held off a surge in the final minute.