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LeBron and his reigning NBA champions escaped in their play-off opener against the Pacers

King finished with 32 points and also handed out 13 assists and pulled down six rebounds against the Pacers.

Image: USA TODAY Sports

THE NBA CHAMPIONS Cleveland Cavaliers escaped with a 109-108 victory over the Indiana Pacers in the opening game of the 2017 playoffs.

Indiana’s C.J. Miles missed a wide-open jump shot at the buzzer after the Cavaliers, as they often did in the waning stages of the regular-season, let the game get complicated toward the end.

“It doesn’t matter how you get a win in the playoffs. We’re one-up,” said Cavs superstar LeBron James, who led all scorers with 32 points and also handed out 13 assists and pulled down six rebounds.

James has now won 18 playoff openers, but he and the Cavs cut it close in this one.

James missed a three-pointer with 20 seconds left and the Pacers had the ball coming out of a timeout.

Miles got loose but his effort bounced off the rim.

Pacers star Paul George finished with 29 points. His three-pointer with four seconds left had cut the Cavs’ lead to one point, setting the stage for Miles’s attempt at a game-winner.

NBA: Playoffs-Indiana Pacers at Cleveland Cavaliers Paul George finished with 29 points for Indiana. Source: USA TODAY Sports

Kyrie Irving scored 23 points and Kevin Love added 17, 15 of them in the first half for Cleveland, who led by 12 points late in the third quarter and were up by 10 with 9:04 remaining before the Pacers rallied.

Jeff Teague’s three-pointer with 3:31 to play put the Pacers up by two — after six straight empty possessions for the Cavs.

But James immediately responded with a driving dunk and the Pacers wouldn’t get ahead again.

(C) AFP 2017

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