MIAMI (NBA) - It was hard for LeBron James and the Miami Heat to reach the top in the NBA, which they did by defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder in last year's Finals.
It's supposed to be even harder to stay on top, but there was no sign of a struggle in the Heat's first play-off game this season, a 110-87 drubbing of the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday.
James barely missed a triple-double with 27 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.
"That’s about efficient as you can get,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
"[James] really let the game come to him. It was a very mature, high-IQ game. That’s about as efficient as you can get."
Several months removed from a second straight Olympic gold medal performance with Team USA, James admitted after latest display: “I’m setting the bar, actually, too high for myself.”
'The King' isn't the only international superstar making waves in the post-season.
Carmelo Anthony, another two-time Olympic gold medalist with the USA, had 36 points for New York in their 85-78 Game 1 victory over Boston.
Argentina's basketball icon Manu Ginobili, meanwhile, had 18 points, three assists and two steals in 19 minutes off the bench for San Antonio as they defeated the Los Angeles Lakers, 91-79.
Ginobili, the MVP of the 2004 Olympics, had eight points at the end of the third quarter to break open a tight game and give the Spurs a 13-point lead.
San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich knows better than anyone how and when to utilize the brilliant skills and boundless determination of Ginobili.
“After 11 years together, he knows the way I play,” Ginobili said. “I seek my moment.”
In defeat, a Lakers side that is without an injured Kobe Bryant for the play-offs got 16 points and 16 rebounds from Pau Gasol of Spain but it wasn't enough.
Center Dwight Howard also had 20 points and 15 boards.
Oklahoma City could be the team to beat in the Western Conference.
Entering the post-season as the top seed, they throttled the Houston Rockets, 120-91, with Kevin Durant's 24 points leading the way.
James Harden, who was in Oklahoma City's team last year and played so well that he was added to American Olympic squad along with Durant and Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, had 20 points in defeat.
Al Horford poured in 16 points for Atlanta but they crashed to a 107-90 defeat at Indiana.
Horford, the Dominican Republic national team's leading man, and the Hawks had no answers for Paul George.
While George struggled from the field, making just three of 13 attempts and missing all five shots from the arc, the small forward drilled 17 of 18 free-throws and finished with 23 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists for the Pacers.
In the other play-off openers, Brooklyn got their first-ever play-off victory in a 106-89 blowout of Chicago.
The Los Angeles Clippers routed the Memphis Grizzlies, 112-91, and Denver edged Golden State, 97-95.
Andre Miller, who had 28 points for the Nuggets, had the winning bucket when he dribbled past Draymond Green and made a lay-up with just 1.3 seconds remaining.
Even worse for Golden State was the loss of David Lee to a hip injury for the remainder of the season.
Lee's play this season has fueled speculation that he will be in the United States' squad for the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup.
Now he'll have to watch the rest of the play-offs.