Escape act: LeBron, Cavs edge Pacers 109-108 in Game 1

Getty Images

Getty Images

He simply wants to win Game 2 on Monday night and get one step closer to capturing his second championship.

It was especially big for Irving, as he had missed his first three shots of the fourth quarter - including an eighth missed 3-point attempt - and shot just 11-for-27 for the game.

For Cleveland, meanwhile, it was a game in which it almost wasted a late lead the way it had so many times in the regular season.

The defending National Basketball Association champs hung on to beat the Indiana Pacers, 109-108, on April 15, because, of all things, they played tight, in-your-face defense when they had to.

After the game Miles reportedly sat in front of his locker not moving and completely despondent for 30 minutes after missing the shot.

James didn't even take a shot until 2:39 was left in the first quarter.

"He missed", James said. Fast forward to the end of the game and he finished with 32 on 12-of-20 shooting, adding six rebounds, 13 assists and three steals.

Defense wasn't a priority for either team during the first half, with the Cavaliers heading to intermission holding a 66-59 advantage. Miles, Paul George and Thaddeus Young, they could all switch defensively. His shot was on line, but short and the Cavs survived a disastrous final few minutes. It was a necessary move, though Pacers center Kevin Séraphin was wide open under the rim, but George obviously thought he would have gotten the ball back.

Final day of NBA season will decide some seeds, matchups
Starters Taj Gibson and Andre Roberson also sat out as the Thunder prepare for a first-round series against Houston . Utah eliminated the Denver Nuggets in six games in the first round in 2010 before getting swept by the Lakers.

"I talked to CJ about it", George said following the team's 109-108 loss.

Paul George's only bucket of the fourth quarter, a long 3-pointer, gave the Pacers a chance, and after LeBron James missed a three with 20 seconds left, IN had the last shot, but made precious little attempt to make sure it came from their best player. "I'm confident in all my guys taking shots, that's not the issue".

"If I didn't get that block past year in the Finals, what happens?".

Miles didn't make any excuses.

Asked after the game if he was "happy" about how the Cavaliers got the win, James, who had a monster line of 32 points, 13 assists and six rebounds when it was all over, said, "Absolutely!" "I just think that if we got to those 50-50 balls and those offensive rebounds, that it would have been a totally different game". They came one Miles shot away from losing. "I just didn't make it".

The Cavaliers are the defending NBA champs and they of course have James, who is trying to lead his team to a seventh consecutive NBA Finals.

"In a series, I think you get better with time", James said.

After dropping their last four and going 10-14 since March 1, the Cavs entered the postseason appearing very vulnerable. While he only finished with 17 points and four rebounds, Love was instrumental in the Cavs having a five-point lead after a quarter where all James had to do was facilitate and rebound.

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While there were a few puddles, it was relatively good conditions for the hunt. "It was crowded, but fun", Bravo said. The Lilly family came a little too late for the hunt, but the children still got to fill up on candy.

Irving dismissed the idea that Cavs feel vulnerable.

"Hell, no", he snapped. "We've just got to take it game by game and we understand that we have a veteran group, and if we do that we'll put ourselves in a great position".

IN played a solid all-around game, matching the Cavs at both ends and even out-rebounding them. The Cavs allowed the Pacers to shoot 49.4 percent from the field and 45.8 percent from 3 after supposedly locking in on defense all week.

"We just didn't flash high enough", said McMillan postgame. "I'm happy with the energy and the effort". They didn't believe anyone else would make a play.

James has been on the receiving end of criticism for not taking the final shot, and was not about to criticize George for passing to Miles. So if you're the best player on the floor, that doesn't mean you have to take the shot.

"I just tried to run him off the 3", Jefferson said. But McMillan can't be afraid to tinker with his rotation during the postseason, particularly with overwhelming evidence that his starting lineup could charitably be described as average for the balance of the season.

Pacers: This is G Jeff Teague's third straight postseason facing the Cavs. He was previously with Atlanta, which was swept by Cleveland in 2015 and 2016.

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Jim Johnson would close it out for the Braves , working a 1-2-3 ninth. "The bullpen picked me up and we won the (Wednesday) game". Atlanta won its third straight following a five-game losing streak, including its first two games at SunTrust Park.

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