LeBron James has never taken fewer shots in a playoff game than he did on Sunday night, which at first glance might look like a good thing for the Milwaukee Bucks.
It was not.
James scored 27 points on 9 for 11 shooting – finishing 2 assists shy of a triple-double – while Ray Allen scored 20 off the bench and the current champion Heat picked up where they left off in the NBA playoffs last year, never trailing on the way to beating the Bucks 110-87 in Game 1 of an Eastern Conference first-round series.
”All I care about is the win,” James announced. ”I didn’t even know my stats. I just knew that we were playing efficient offensively apart from the turnovers. We want to try and keep that going.”
Dwyane Wade scored 16; Chris Bosh added 15 and Chris Andersen finished with 10 on 4 for 4 shooting for the Heat, who opened their title defense by holding Milwaukee to 42 percent shooting and outrebounding Milwaukee 46-31.
Brandon Jennings scored 26 points and Monta Ellis added 22 for the Bucks, who have not won the opening game of a playoff series since May 2001.
”We’ve got nothing to lose,” Jennings recounted. ”Nobody should be scared or anything. Let’s just hoop.”
James had taken only 11 shots in a playoff game twice before, and his postseason per-game average entering Sunday was under 21 tries. But with the way he controlled the game Sunday, he did not exactly need to shoot.
That’s probably not the best of signs for the Milwaukee Bucks.
”Clearly, surprisingly efficient,” Bucks coach Jim Boylan said. ”When you’ve got a game like that, what are you able to do?”
Milwaukee came into the series with Jennings predicting his team would oust the reigning champions in 6 games.
They’ll have to win 4 of 5 now for that to happen.
And with James playing like this, the chances would seem particularly slim. He had 10 rebounds and 8 assists – both game-highs. His assist total was only 6 shy of what the Bucks managed, combined. Baseball spreads
The 23-point margin notwithstanding, it was far from a perfect night for Miami. The Heat shot only 30 percent from 3-point range, and turned the ball over 19 times – giving Milwaukee Bucks 22 points – and still won with ease.
Milwaukee had 10 offensive rebounds in the first half, zero in the 2nd half.
Milwaukee Bucks recounted coming into Game 1 that they would brace for Miami to come out flying, and the Heat more than delivered on that expectation. Miami scored on its first 5 possessions and after back-to-back scores at the rim by James – the first of those a vicious one-handed slam after Wade set him up on a 3-on-1 break – the Heat were up 21-8 early.
Milwaukee settled down fast getting within 26-24 at the end of the first, with Jennings scoring 10 in the period. And the Bucks hung around for the remainder of the first half, with the Miami lead just 52-45 going into intermission.