MIAMI – LeBron “King” James and the reigning NBA champion Miami Heat opened their playoff campaign in regal style last night with a wire-to-wire 110-87 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks at the American Airlines Arena.
One team hoping to challenge them in the East, Indiana, enjoyed a 107-90 victory over Atlanta while Western Conference heavyweights San Antonio had little trouble toppling a depleted LA Lakers 91-79.
But it was the Heat who flexed their muscles.
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 a home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.
Brandon Jennings scored 18 of his 26 points in the first half for Milwaukee while Monta Ellis added 22.
In Indianapolis, Paul George’s triple-double fuelled the Indiana Pacers’ 107-90 victory over the Atlanta Hawks.
George posted 23 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds to lead the Pacers to their first game-one win in a playoff series since 2006.
In San Antonio, the star trio of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili combined for 53 points to lead the Spurs to victory.
Veteran centre Duncan posted the 139th playoff double-double of his career with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
France’s Parker added 18 points and eight assists and also made three steals while Argentina’s Ginobili, showing no sign of the hamstring strain that sidelined him late in the regular season, contributed 18 points off the bench.
Boomers point guard Patty Mills wasn’t able to get off the bench for the Spurs.
The result in the first game of the best-of-seven Western Conference series was what many expected after the Lakers lost superstar Kobe Bryant to a torn achilles tendon the week before the playoffs began.