NBA: Heat burn Bucks in playoff opener
MIAMI – LeBron “King” James and the reigning NBA champion Miami Heat opened their playoff campaign in regal style Sunday with a wire-to-wire 110-87 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks.
James fell two assists shy of a triple-double, scoring 27 points and grabbing 10 rebounds with eight assists as the Heat drew first blood in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference first-round series.
Ray Allen scored 20 points, Dwyane Wade added 16 and Chris Bosh chipped in 15 for the Heat, who carried their strong form of the second half of the regular season seamlessly into the playoffs.
Since the All-Star break the Heat had gone 30-2— the best second-half winning percentage in NBA history.
Their league-leading regular season record of 66-16 included a 27-game winning streak and assured them of home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.
Against Milwaukee, a team that limped into the playoffs as the eighth seed in the East, the Heat showed they intended to put the advantages they’ve earned to good use.
They held the Bucks to 42 percent shooting and out-rebounded them 46-31.
The bad news for all the teams hoping to knock Miami off their throne— James thinks the Heat can do a lot better.
“We know we can play a better game,” James said. “We didn’t play our best game. We didn’t shoot the ball like we’re capable of doing from the outside. But the one thing that we did do was we shared the ball once again. We had 22 assists and we rebounded the ball, too.”
The Heat jumped to an early nine-point lead and led by as many as 25 points in the second half.
“They came out in the second half on a mission,” said Bucks center Larry Sanders. “They picked their intensity up and we fell short a little bit. They played with a lot of intensity tonight on both ends. They attack on the defensive end and offensive end. We just have to attack and keep our composure.”
Brandon Jennings scored 18 of his 26 points in the first half for Milwaukee. Monta Ellis added 22 for the Bucks, which remained without a win in an opening game of a playoff series since May of 2001. They’ll try to bounce back in game two on Tuesday.
The game was one of two Eastern Conference first-round series openers on Sunday. In the other, Paul George’s triple-double fueled the Indiana Pacers’ 107-90 victory over the Atlanta Hawks in Indianapolis.
George posted 23 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds to lead Pacers to their first game-one win in a playoff series since 2006.
Indiana’s four other starters also scored in double figures, with George Hill contributing 18 points and Roy Hibbert 16. David West and Lance Stephenson added 13 points each for the Pacers.
In Indianapolis, George and the rest of the Pacers dominated the Hawks at the foul line.
George made 17 of his 18 free throw attempts and the Pacers made 30-of-34 from the line completed to 7-of-14 from Atlanta.
Indianapolis native Jeff Teague paced the Hawks with 21 points and seven assists. Josh Smith had 15 points and Al Horford scored 14 in the defeat, and neither was a factor in the second half.
The Hawks will try to level the series when the Pacers host game two on Wednesday.