No matter how much you question the Cleveland Cavaliers' playoff chances, when it comes to Game 7s, always bet on LeBron James. The King stepped up in another Game 7 on Sunday in Cleveland, putting up 45 points in the 105-101 win over the Indiana Pacers. James' big night was supported by his teammates around him, including Tristan Thompson's double-double of 15 points and 10 rebounds. Thompson's big day comes after he played in just 24 minutes in the first six games of the series, as head coach Tyronn Lue used his 34th different starting lineup this season. James was seen during the game saying that he was playing the entire game, but the 33-year-old finished with 43 minutes of playing time, adding nine rebounds and seven assists in the win. "King James" improves to 13-0 in his career in the first round and has now won eight consecutive Game 7s, Kevin Love also contributed with four three-pointers, while George Hill returned after missing three games and scored 11 points in 19 minutes. All of those contributions led to a big Cavaliers' win in what was the first Game 7 in Quicken Loans Arena history. Victor Oladipo had 30 points in the loss and called James "amazing" after the game, but also claimed that his team "gained a lot of respect" by lasting seven games in the series. The Cavaliers will kick off their second-round series on Tuesday night on the road against the Toronto Raptors.
Harden, Rockets Roll to Begin Second Round
The Houston Rockets rolled in five games of their first-round series and are known to be the only legitimate threat to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference. They proved once again why that is on Sunday afternoon, as James Harden had 41 points in a 110-96 rout of the Utah Jazz in Game 1 at the Toyota Center. The Rockets used a 34-point first quarter to get off to a quick start and never looked back, as they built a 25-point halftime lead. They gained that lead by Harden combining for 36 first-half points with Chris Paul. Harden ended the game with seven assists and eight rebounds, as the bearded star averaged 34.3 points against the Jazz this season, led by a 56-point performance in a 137-110 victory in November. His performance on Sunday was good for his sixth 40-point playoff game in his career, as the Rockets won their fourth in a row by double digits. They have defeated the Jazz this season by an average of 16.8 points. Utah got 21 points apiece from Donovan Mitchell and Jae Crowder, as they were without Ricky Rubio due to a strained left hamstring. Mitchell's 21 points was a postseason low, as he is coming off a dominant series in Utah's win over the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round. Game 2 of their second round series with the Rockets will take place on Wednesday night.
Predators, Capitals Even Series at Home
The second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs is already looking to be a lot more competitive than what we saw in the first round, as two teams tied things up on Sunday. First, Kevin Fiala scored 5:37 in to the second overtime period, helping the Nashville Predators overcome a Game-1 loss at home with a 4-3 win over the Winnipeg Jets. Fiala's goal came on a 2-on-1 break with Craig Smith, as the Predators earned their 100th playoff win as a franchise, and 50th with Peter Laviolette as head coach. Ryan Johansen scored twice, Viktor Arvidsson recorded a goal and two assists, and P.K. Subban finished with a goal and an assist, all to help overcome a 4-1 Game-1 loss. Game 3 will take place at the Bell MTS Place on Tuesday night. Meanwhile, the Washington Capitals actually hung on to a lead in Game 2 of their series, where they evened things at one-apiece with a 4-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins. This comes after blowing a two-goal lead in a Game 1 loss, which was their second straight series-opening loss on their home ice. Alex Ovechkin netted his seventh goal of the playoffs, while Braden Holtby made 32 saves on 33 shots from the Penguins. One of those nearly got through, and seemed to have done so, as Sidney Crosby tried to jam one home, but it was called no goal after review due to it being inconclusive, despite the replay seemingly showing that the puck was over the line. The Penguins were also without defenseman, Brian Dumoulin following a hit to the head by Tom Wilson. Jakub Vrana and Brett Connolly both scored for the Capitals, who got off to a 3-0 lead. The third game of the series will take place in Pittsburgh on Tuesday night.