LeBron James scored 32 points and the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers, looking to flip the switch after a shaky regular season, began the NBA playoffs by escaping with a 109-108 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Saturday in Game 1.
Playing in his 200th playoff game, James added 13 assists and six rebounds while winning his 18th consecutive first-round game.
However, it was anything but easy as the Cavs had to withstand a strong comeback by the Pacers, who could have stolen the opener but C.J. Miles missed a 14-foot jumper in the final second.
Kyrie Irving added 23 points and Kevin Love had 17 for Cleveland, which has won 12 straight playoff games at home.
Paul George scored 29 points and Lance Stephenson had 16 for the seventh-seeded Pacers, who will try to even the series on Monday night.
George had the ball in his hands on the final possession, but the Cavs double-teamed him, forcing him to pass to Miles, who has always shot well against his former team. His shot was on line, but short and the Cavs survived a disastrous final few minutes.
BUCKS 97, RAPTORS 83
Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 28 points and rookie Malcolm Brogdon had 16 as the Milwaukee Bucks beat the Toronto Raptors 97-83 in Game 1 of the first-round series.
Playing in his second career playoff series, Antetekounmpo made 13 of 18 shots, and added eight rebounds and three assists. Greg Monroe added 14 points.
DeMar DeRozan led Toronto with 27 points, and Serge Ibaka had 19 points and 14 rebounds. The Raptors have lost the opening game in eight consecutive playoff series.
Toronto’s Kyle Lowry made only two of 11 field-goal attempts, missing all six 3-point efforts, and finished with four points. Jonas Valanciunas had nine points and nine rebounds.
Game 2 is Tuesday night in Toronto.
JAZZ 97, CLIPPERS 95
Joe Johnson drove the lane and lifted in a shot at the buzzer, and Utah overcame the loss of Rudy Gobert 17 seconds into the game to beat Los Angeles in their playoff opener.
Johnson had 21 points, including when he was left isolated against Jamal Crawford on the final play. He powered his way inside and lofted a shot over Crawford and DeAndre Jordan that bounced around the rim before falling in. A video review confirmed it was good.
Gobert sprained his left knee on the game’s first play when he banged knees with Clippers forward Luc Mbah a Moute, leaving the Jazz without their center who averaged 14.0 points and 12.8 rebounds during the regular season.
Utah steadied itself behind two veterans brought in to balance the inexperienced Jazz. Johnson came up big off the bench and George Hill added 16 points.
Blake Griffin scored 26 points and Chris Paul added 25 points and 11 assists for the Clippers.
SPURS 111, GRIZZLIES 82
Kawhi Leonard matched his postseason high with 32 points and San Antonio routed Memphis in Game 1.
LaMarcus Aldridge had 20 points, and Tony Parker added 18 to help San Antonio win its ninth straight over Memphis in the postseason.
Marc Gasol had 32 points, but only seven in the second half as the Grizzlies fell behind by as many as 36 points. Mike Conley was the only other Grizzlies player in double figures, finishing with 13.
Memphis was without defensive lynchpin Tony Allen. He’s out indefinitely with a calf injury, and Leonard took advantage for his fourth career playoff game of 30-plus points.
Game 2 is Monday night in San Antonio.