MIAMI (Reuters) - LeBron James began the Miami Heat’s playoff campaign with a display of deadly efficiency on Sunday, leading the defending NBA champions to a 110-87 win over the Milwaukee Bucks.
James had 27 points, snaffled 10 rebounds and dished eight assists, leading all players in those categories. He also finished nine-of-11 shooting.
His performance may have lacked the dominance of some of his previous displays but cracking 80 percent shooting for the first time in a postseason game left Bucks head coach Jim Boylan wondering how he could stop James.
“He was incredibly efficient, nine from 11, when you have a game like that what can you do?” he told reporters.
“I thought Luc (Mbah a Moute) and Marquis (Daniels) battled him well, tried to make him as uncomfortable as possible, but the guy is the best player in the world right now, so what can you do? You just tip your hat to him.”
Ray Allen put up 20 points for Miami with Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade making 15 and 16 points. Chris Andersen made his heavily-tattooed presence felt with 10 points and seven rebounds in lively bursts from the bench.
“He is in playoff mode. We love him in that mode,” said Wade. “Now he is focused on his goal and his goal is to dominate every game and help take this team to a championship.”
James, who was critical of the team’s 19 turnovers, including five from himself, joked that he was making a rod for his own back with his shooting percentage.
“I‘m setting the bar, actually too high for myself, shooting nine-of-11, if I go nine-for-18, you’ll look at me crazy,” he said.
“We have so many threats out on the floor it just allows me to go out there without stress, we have so many guys who can also make plays.”
But that team element works both ways for the Heat, with James’ presence looming so large that opponents sometimes find it tough to keep their focus across the court.
“It’s not so much his scoring, it’s the way he gets everyone else involved,” said Brandon Jennings, who led Milwaukeee with 26 points.
“Every time he has the ball he draws so much attention to himself so sometimes you can be falling asleep out there because you are just so worried about what LeBron is going to do.”
The series continues with Game Two in Miami on Tuesday.
Editing by Peter Rutherford