In brief: LeBron, Shaq lead Cavs to playoff win
NBA: Cleveland superstars LeBron James and Shaquille O’Neal, separated for a large chunk of the regular season, combined for 36 points and seven blocks as the Cavaliers opened the Eastern Conference playoffs with a 96-83 win over the visiting Chicago Bulls.
James had 24 points and four blocks and a slimmed-down O’Neal, playing for the first time since Feb. 25, scored 12 in 24 minutes as the top-seeded Cavs won a testy opener.
• Hawks outdo Bucks: Led by Joe Johnson and getting production from all their key players, the Atlanta Hawks blitzed the Milwaukee Bucks before halftime, survived a lackluster showing over the final two quarters and held off visiting Milwaukee 102-92 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference series.
The home team never trailed, building a 20-point lead in the first quarter and going to halftime with a 62-40 edge.
Brandon Jennings had 34 points for Milwaukee.
•Celtics clamp down on Heat: Kevin Garnett had 15 points and nine rebounds and the Boston Celtics played Miami-style defense to beat the Heat 85-76 in the opener of their playoff series in Boston.
Trailing 44-41 at halftime, the Celtics held the Heat to 32 points in the second half. Dwyane Wade scored 26 points after averaging 33.7 in three regular-season games against Boston.
• Anthony leads Nuggets: Carmelo Anthony scored a playoff career-high 42 points and J.R. Smith’s fourth-quarter flurry of 3-pointers helped the Denver Nuggets beat the Utah Jazz 126-113 in Denver in Game 1 of the playoff series.
Anthony, whose previous playoff high was 41 points against Dallas in the second round last year, benefited from the absence of Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko.
Backstrom’s hat trick rallies Caps past Habs
NHL: Don’t count out the Washington Capitals, no matter how big the deficit, no matter how dire the circumstances.
Nicklas Backstrom completed a hat trick by scoring only 31 seconds into overtime, helping the top-seeded Capitals finish a wild comeback to beat the visiting Montreal Canadiens 6-5 and even their first-round Eastern Conference playoff series at a game apiece.
Montreal led 2-0 after its first two shots, prompting Washington to yank goalie Jose Theodore, and then went ahead 4-1.
• Bruins even series: Michael Ryder and Zdeno Chara scored 2 minutes apart in the third period and the Boston Bruins rallied for a 5-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres in Buffalo, N.Y., that tied the first-round playoff series at 1-1.
The Sabres not only squandered a lead entering the third period for the first time this season but also lost leading scorer Thomas Vanek, who didn’t return after he hurt his left foot in the first period.
• Kopitar nets OT winner: Anze Kopitar scored on a power play 7:28 into overtime and the Los Angeles Kings overcame a two-goal deficit to beat the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 in Vancouver, British Columbia, tying the Western Conference series at a game apiece.
With the Canucks penalized for too many men on the ice after a sloppy line change, Kopitar got his own rebound in the slot and fired a quick shot that hit Roberto Luongo and then bounced in off the butt end of the goalie’s stick.
Furyk holds slim Verizon Heritage lead
Golf: Jim Furyk shot a 67 for an 11-under-par 202, good for a one-stroke lead over Brian Davis (66) at the Verizon Heritage at Hilton Head Island, S.C.
• Langer takes Champions Tour lead: Bernhard Langer shot a 5-under 66 to take a one-stroke lead over Mark O’Meara and Mike Reid in the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am in Lutz, Fla.
Nadal close to Monte Carlo Masters title
Tennis: Rafael Nadal drew within one victory of a sixth straight Monte Carlo Masters title after beating Spanish compatriot David Ferrer 6-2, 6-3 in Monaco.
Nadal will play sixth-seeded Fernando Verdasco in an all-Spanish final today.
• Zvonareva to face Stosur: Top-seeded Caroline Wozniacki retired from her semifinal match against Vera Zvonareva at the Family Circle Cup in Charleston, S.C., after injuring her right ankle.
In today’s final, Zvonareva meets Samantha Stosur of Australia, who defeated Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia 6-3, 7-6 (2).
Martinez beats Pavlik for middleweight title
Boxing: Sergio Martinez dominated the final five rounds, winning a bloody and impressive unanimous decision over Kelly Pavlik to claim the WBO and WBC middleweight championships in Atlantic City, N.J.
• Bute keeps IBF title: Undefeated Lucian Bute stopped Edison Miranda 1:22 into the third round to retain the IBF super-middleweight title at the Bell Centre in Montreal.
Legendre defends NCAA title in floor
Miscellany: Steven Legendre of Oklahoma defended his NCAA men’s gymnastics title on floor exercise, and tied a school record with his sixth individual collegiate crown in West Point, N.Y.