Damian Lillard had 34 points and the Portland Trail Blazers spoiled LeBron James’ first playoff appearance for the Los Angeles Lakers with a 100-93 victory on Tuesday night in Game 1 of the teams’ playoff series.
Jusuf Nurkic had 16 points and 15 rebounds for Portland, which led by as many as 16 points in the first half. The Lakers narrowed the advantage to 57-56 at the break and stayed close the rest of the way.
Trailing 78-75 going into the final period, the Lakers tied it at 78 on Kyle Kuzma’s 3-pointer. James’ layup gave Los Angeles the lead, and Kuzma added a pair of free throws and another layup to extend it to 84-78.
Lillard’s 3-pointer tied it at 87 with 5:46 to go and CJ McCollum’s floater gave Portland the lead.
After Danny Green’s layup tied it again for Los Angeles, Lillard nailed a 3-pointer. Anthony Davis’ dunk got the Lakers within 95-93, but Gary Trent Jr. made a 3-pointer that put Portland up 98-93 before Nurkic dunked to all but seal it.
Portland won the first play-in post-season NBA game since 1956, beating Memphis 126-122 on Saturday to make the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season. The Blazers were among three teams with losing overall records to make the bubble playoffs. No team below .500 had advanced to the post-season since 2015.
This is just the second year ever both No. 1 seeds lost Game 1 of a 1-8 series.<br><br>The other: 2003, when the Pistons (to Magic) and Spurs (to Suns) lost Game 1s. Both Detroit and San Antonio eventually won the series.
Lilliard hit a 3-pointer to put the Blazers up 26-15 in the opening quarter. Portland extended the lead to 33-17 after Nurkic’s dunk. Lillard had 15 points in the quarter.
James’s spin move before his layup closed the gap to 39-30. The Lakers got within 40-38 but couldn’t pull in front until Davis’ dunk off of James’ pass made it 50-49 with just over three minute left in the half. But the lead was brief.
The Blazers were able to stay in front throughout the third quarter, but the Lakers kept it close.
The game was delayed for a time in the first half when the Lakers’ rim got tilted and had to be adjusted.
The teams have met six times in a first-round series, with the Lakers winning five. It is the 12th time the teams have met in the playoffs.
Orlando uses Disney magic to down Bucks
The Milwaukee Bucks’ hopes of winning their first NBA title since 1971 got off to a rocky start.
Nikola Vucevic scored a playoff career-high 35 points and had 14 rebounds, and the Orlando Magic stunned the top-seeded Bucks 122-110 on Tuesday in the league’s fan-free Disney World bubble.
Terrence Ross scored 18 points, Gary Clark added 15 and D.J. Augustin had 11 points and 11 assists for the eighth-seeded Magic, who were 14-point underdogs.
“We don’t care what other people have to say,” Vucevic said. “We focus on ourselves and we came out and played a great game on both ends of the floor.”
Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with 31 points, 17 rebounds and seven assists for Milwaukee. Last season’s MVP was held without a field goal over the final 11 minutes and seemed to get more frustrated as the fourth quarter went on.
“You have to really be ready for what they do,” Vucevic said. “Especially us against a team like Milwaukee where we have to make sure we know their stuff and we are prepared for everything. Tonight, we definitely were on top of that. We did a good job executing the game plan.”
The Bucks came into the post-season as the favourites to win the NBA title. But they went 3-5 in seeding games in the bubble, and that sluggish play carried over into the post-season.
George Hill said the Bucks needed to do some “soul searching.”
Antetokounmpo didn’t go that far, saying the Bucks’ energy level was fine, but that they need to make more shots. Milwaukee made 43 per cent from the field and was 14 of 42 from 3-point land.
“There’s no magic wand to point and things are going to change,” Antetokounmpo said. “You’ve got to come out, play hard, play even harder, play together and have fun.”
The Bucks’ frustration was evident when centre Brook Lopez stomped on a chair — and then kicked it — in the bench area during a timeout.
“Obviously, our main focus was try to make it hard on Giannis, to protect the paint,” Vucevic said. “We did that as a team. Gary [Clark] did a great job fighting him and we were able to help.”
Butler, Heat get by Pacers
Jimmy Butler scored 28 points, Goran Dragic had 24 and the Miami Heat beat the Indiana Pacers 113-101 on Tuesday in the opener of their Eastern Conference first-round series.
The Heat pulled away in the closing minutes, long after the Pacers had lost star guard Victor Oladipo to an eye injury.
Indiana went 6-2 in the seeding games and Miami was 3-5, with the teams splitting a pair of meetings. The Pacers’ victory on Friday in the finale allowed them to take the No. 4 seed, which in other years would have been a bigger deal because it meant Indiana would have had home-court advantage.
Butler seemed to treat it like a road game, appearing to jaw at one point toward the virtual Pacers fans filling the sides of the arena in the NBA’s Disney World bubble.
T,J. Warren and Malcolm Brogdon scored 22 points apiece for the Pacers, who will try to even the series on Thursday.
Oladipo was limited to 8 minutes before he was scratched in the left eye with 3:26 remaining in the first quarter, appearing to be hit first by Miami’s Jae Crowder.
Rockets blast past Thunder
James Harden had 37 points and 11 rebounds, and the Houston Rockets rolled past the Oklahoma City Thunder 123-108 on Tuesday in Game 1 of their first-round Western Conference playoff series.
Houston all-star Russell Westbrook, who played his previous 11 years with the Thunder, was out with a quad injury. The fourth-seeded Rockets still made 20 3-pointers and shot 48 per cent from the field.
Danilo Gallinari matched a playoff career high with 29 points for the fifth-seeded Thunder. Chris Paul, who joined the Oklahoma City in the trade that sent Westbrook to Houston, finished with 20 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. Steven Adams added 17 points and 12 rebounds.
Gordon scored 16 points and Harden had 15 in the first half to help the Rockets take a 68-52 lead. Oklahoma City cut its deficit to 10 at one point in the third quarter, but the Rockets pulled away and led 104-83 heading into the fourth.