CLEVELAND - LeBron James and the Cavaliers started slowly and surprisingly were down eight points to the Celtics. Having begun the season with a homecoming loss to the Knicks, James wasn't about to let the Cavaliers lose their first playoff game together in five years.
After leading the Heat to four straight Finals appearances and two NBA titles, he left Miami and returned to Cleveland last July. The Akron, Ohio, product wants to take care of some unfinished business and help Cleveland win its first professional championship since 1964.
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The fans that filled Quicken Loans Arena were waiting for James to take over. A Game 1 loss to the nondescript Celtics would have put the city in panic mode. The same probably could be said for the organization.
But James started to put his stamp on the game in the second quarter with his words and his play. He calmed his teammates and sparked the Cavaliers to a 113-100 win over the Celtics in the opener of what many expect to be a long playoff run for the Cavs.
James got help from his team's other two stars, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, who stood out in their postseason debuts. Irving had 30 points and Love added 19 points, 12 rebounds and four assists.
"Everybody was worried about what Kevin and Kyrie would do in the first playoff games," Cavs coach David Blatt said. "I guess that's the answer."
It wouldn't have been possible if not for James, who, as usual, filled out the stat sheet: 20 points, seven assists, six rebounds and two steals.
James draws so much attention that he opens up the floor for Irving and Love and the rest of the Cavaliers' shooters. Irving already was a great player, but now that James is his teammate, the game looks so easy for him.Irving shot 11-for-21 overall and 5-for-9 from three-point range. Love was only 5-for-14 but remained aggressive throughout on both ends. "I thought they were phenomenal," James said.
When the Cavs were down in the second quarter, James called his teammates over to get them refocused, and the game turned. James was responsible for 14 points during a 24-7 run that gave the Cavaliers a 53-44 lead.
"We were down and I saw LeBron on the court telling everybody, 'Calm down, it's going to be OK, stay cool, stay poised,' '' Blatt said, "and from that point, we caught our stride."
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Grizzlies 100, Trail Blazers 86: Reserve Beno Udrih scored 20 points for host Memphis in Game 1 of the Western Conference first-round series. Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol totaled 31 points and 22 rebounds. LaMarcus Aldridge led Portland with 32 points but shot 13-for-34.