LeBron Dominates As Miami Heat Begin Title Defense (Highlights)

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MIAMI - Milwaukee Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings talked a big game, but the Miami Heat had the ultimate argument ender - LeBron James.

Led by James' 27 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists in just 34 minutes, the Heat began defense of their NBA championship with a 110-87 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks in a first-round playoff opener Sunday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.

game Two in the best-of-seven series is set for Tuesday night in Miami.

 

Jennings, who had predicted the Bucks would win the series in six games, said it wasn't James' points that beat the Bucks.

"It's everything else he does, getting everybody else involved," Jennings said. "Every time he touches the ball, he draws so much attention. Sometimes you can fall asleep because you are so worried about LeBron. That's the way he changes the game."

James made 9 of 11 shots from the floor, including 1 of 2 on three-pointers. He also made 8 of 11 from the foul line.

It was that efficiency that set James apart from the Bucks' high-scoring guards, Jennings (26 points) and Monta Ellis(22 points).

That duo easily outscored the Heat's starting guards, Dwyane Wade (16 points) and Mario Chalmers (seven).

But the Heat as a team was just so much more efficient, shooting 55.9 percent from the field compared to the Bucks' 41.5. The Heat also made 27 of 33 shots from the foul line (81.8 percent) compared to Milwaukee's 12 of 20 (60 percent).

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra credited James.

"He facilitated a lot for us, creating triggers a lot of the time by setting screens," Spoelstra said. "It was a very mature, high IQ game. That was about efficient as it gets."

Another key for the Heat was the fact that they had five scorers in double figures, including Ray Allen coming off the bench to get 20 points.

Milwaukee had no one not named Jennings or Ellis score more than six points.

The Heat also took Bucks center Larry Sanders out of his game. First, they planted center Chris Bosh out on the right corner, in three-point territory, drawing Sanders away from the basket and his comfort zone.

Bosh hit two straight from there in the first quarter, forcing the Bucks to adjust and put Ersan Ilyasova on Bosh and Sanders on Udonis Haslem. Bosh finished with 15 points but made just one more three-pointer the rest of the game.

Secondly, Sanders got in foul trouble trying to control James and the rest of the Heat players crashing the lane.

"It's hard to get into the flow when you're in foul trouble," Bucks coach Jim Boylan said of Sanders. "It was a learning experience for him."

Miami, which got off to a 7-0 start, never trailed. The Heat pulled away gradually, leading by two points after one quarter, by seven points at halftime and by 15 points after three.

The Heat made plays when they needed to, and a perfect example came late in the third period, when Miami had the ball out of bounds with 1.1 seconds left on the shot clock. Even with such little time, the Heat still got a three-pointer from Allen.

The Heat was not perfect, though. They were charged with 19 turnovers, including four on steals by Ellis.

"They are very good with their hands," James said of the Bucks. "We have to do a better job in the second game of holding our turnovers down. They do a great job of getting deflections, and we can't allow a team to get extra possessions where we are not setting our half-court defense."

James was asked whether he thought he was going to get a triple double.

"All I care about is the win - I didn't even know my stats," he said. "All I knew is that we were playing efficiently aside from our turnovers."

NOTES: VegasInsiders.com rates the Heat as an overwhelming 1-6 favorite to win the Eastern Conference and a 1-2 pick to repeat as NBA champs. ... While the Heat entered the playoffs having won 37 of their past 39 games, the Bucks had prevailed in just six of their past 21. ... The Bucks played the Heat well in two early meetings, a 104-85 win and an overtime loss. But the Heat controlled the two more recent matchups. ... Chris "Birdman" Andersen posted the best regular-season win-loss record in the league (39-3) among players with at least 40 appearances. Heat President Pat Riley revealed Friday that Spoelstra had pestered him repeatedly to sign Andersen -- until he got his way. ... Riley also said he was optimistic the Heat's Big Three of James, Wade and Bosh will opt to extend their contracts with Miami after next season. "I would love to see them end their careers here, hang their numbers and be the godfathers to each other's children," Riley said. ... The Bucks were 16-16 this season before coach Scott Skiles stepped down. They finished just 22-28 under Boylan, who will likely need a big series against Miami to return next season. ... Wade became the fifth NBA shooting guard in the past 30 years to average at least 20 points and shoot at least 52 percent in the regular season. He joins Michael Jordan, Andrew Toney, Rolando Blackman and Ellis. ... Spoelstra had said he was unsure if he would start Haslem or Shane Battier at forward. In a game-time decision, Haslem, who has been starting since mid-December, got the nod over Battier, who was a starter during the Heat's playoff run to the NBA title last season.

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