The Cavaliers started off a riveting day of playoff hoops by eliminating the Pacers in a close Game 7 affair. LeBron James scored 45 and managed to hold off 30 points from Victor Oladipo, pushing Cleveland into a second round matchup against Toronto.
Out in the Western Conference, the Rockets drew first blood against the Jazz in Game 1. The Rockets made one thing clear as they dominated the game from start to finish: The Jazz may have given Oklahoma City fits in the first round, but that wasn't going to be the case in the second. The Jazz will need to make some adjustments to try and contain James Harden, who scored 41 points.
NBA playoff scores for Sunday, April 29
- Game 7: Cleveland Cavaliers 105, Indiana Pacers 101 (box score)
- Game 1: Houston Rockets 110, Utah Jazz 96 (box score)
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Game 7: Pacers at Cavs
LeBron James did what everybody expected him to do in Game 7, and that's carry the Cavs through to the next round. He started off the game knocking down his first seven shots from the floor.
Typically James would sit down to take a breather at the end of the first quarter, but he understands what's needed from him in a pivotal Game 7. He reportedly told his family that was his plan during a break in the game, but wound up going to the locker room with one minute remaining in the third quarter due to cramps.
We just need to mic the LeBron family section. He just told them he's playing the whole game.— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) April 29, 2018
James eventually returned to the game early in the fourth quarter, but not before the Cavs surprisingly extended the lead. Indiana failed to take advantage of the precious minutes without James on the floor.
James even took some time to make history. He is now the record holder for most steals in NBA playoff history. Just another legacy game to add to James' storied career.
Despite James' historic night, this one still went down to the wire. The Pacers fought their way back into the game thanks to Victor Oladipo, who was incredible for Indiana. He had 30 points, 12 rebounds, six assists and even made some clutch plays late.
In the end, James was the difference maker. He finished with 45 points, seven assists, nine rebounds and propelled the Cavaliers to a clutch 105-101 Game 7 victory. James has still never lost in the first round, but this was easily the most dramatic first round series of his career. Cleveland will now head to Toronto for Round 2.
Game 1: Jazz at Rockets
After missing the first round with a shoulder injury, Luc Mbah a Moute returned to the Rockets for Game 1 and made his impact right away. The Rockets just looked like a better defensive team with him on the floor. With that in place, all he had to do was let the rest of the Rockets score at will, and they had no issues with that. The first half was a dominant performance on the part of Houston. Chris Paul and James Harden combined for 36 of the Rockets' 64 first-half points.
Harden kept the show going for the Rockets in the second half. He finished with 41 points and gave Utah's incredible defense fits through the game. That's what Harden does to a team. He doesn't just break down an individual defender, he has the ability to pick apart an entire defense.
This was a great start to the series for Houston. The Rockets struggled at times in the first round. Harden and Paul struggled to both play well at the same time and Minnesota's defense left them a little confused at times. There was concern entering this series that a better defense in Utah would be able to do the same, but on a far more effective scale. That wasn't the case at all in Game 1. The first edge goes to Houston.