LOS ANGELES: Kyrie Irving made the most of his playoff debut on Sunday (Monday in Manila), scoring 30 points as the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Boston Celtics 113-100 in the opening game of their first round series.
Guard Irving played with the poise of an NBA veteran as he drained his first five shots from beyond the arc. He was backed up by LeBron James 20 points, seven assists and six rebounds and Kevin Love’s 19 point and 12 rebound performance as Cleveland took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference series.
“Having four days of preparation and being with my brothers in the war room going over film, going into the game, you feel prepared,” Irving said. “I’m just glad I got game one out of the way.”
In other playoff action on Sunday, Kyle Korver finished with a game-high 21 points to lift the Atlanta Hawks to a 99-92 win over the Brooklyn Nets in game one of their East series.
In the Western Conference, the Memphis Grizzlies defeated the Portland Trail Blazers 100-86 to open their series and the Los Angeles Clippers surprised the defending league champion San Antonio Spurs 107-92.
Irving scored 20 of his 30 points in the first half. He had 12 in the second quarter, including a buzzer-beater to give the second-seeded Cavs a 62-54 halftime lead after they trailed by eight.
“He’s our floor general,” said James. “He set the tone early with his ability to shoot the ball and to get in the lane.”
Love also got his first taste of the postseason, following 439 regular season games with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Cleveland.
Finds his groove
After a slow start Sunday he caught fire in the third, scoring eight points in the first seven minutes of the quarter. He said once he got the early jitters out of the way he was able to find his groove.
“My first playoff game was just a little anxiousness,” Love said. “More than anything, I just wanted to stay aggressive. From the second quarter on, I settled myself and was able to play my game.”
Cleveland led by as much as 20 in the third quarter. James didn’t sit much in the game, but was on the bench when Cleveland scored the last nine points in the third after letting Boston close the gap to six points.
The Celtics never got closer than 10 the rest of the way.
Cleveland was hosting their first playoff game since May 11, 2010, when James was booed by some fans after going three-for-14 in a game five loss to Boston in the Eastern Conference semi-finals.
The Cavaliers were eliminated two days later and two months after that, James announced he was leaving Cleveland to play for the Miami Heat, who he would lead to two NBA titles in four seasons in southern Florida.
Isaiah Thomas had 22 points and 10 assists off the bench to lead the seventh-seeded Celtics. Evan Turner and Kelly Olynyk added 12 points apiece and Marcus Smart, Brandon Bass and Jae Crowder each scored 10.
In Atlanta, Jeff Teague and DeMarre Carroll added 17 points each for the top-seeded Hawks and Dennis Schroder scored 13 off the bench.
Brook Lopez scored 17 points with a game-high 14 rebounds and Joe Johnson also tallied 17 points for the Nets, who clinched the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot on the last day of the regular season.
“A lot of credit goes to them for closing on us and putting us in tough spots,” said Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer. “But I think defensively our hands and our activity were good and created some turnovers.”
Blake Griffin posted 26 points, 12 rebounds and six assists and Chris Paul had 32 points, seven boards and six assists for the Clippers, who entered the postseason having won 14 of 15. DeAndre Jordan grabbed 14 rebounds and had four blocks.
Kawhi Leonard finished with 18 points and Tim Duncan tallied 11 points and 11 rebounds for the Spurs, who are looking to repeat as champions for the first time in franchise history. They went 14-2 to finish the regular season.