Wrap-Up — LeBron James seems to do something historic on an almost nightly basis. But the jaw-dropping feat that he and the Cavaliers pulled off on Thursday night in Indiana breaks a record set before most of the folks reading this were born.
James posted another astronomical stat line, notching the 17th triple-double of his postseason career, but it was Cleveland’s Game 3 comeback that made history – overcoming the Pacers’ 25-point halftime lead to hand them the shocking 119-114 loss at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Erasing that deficit – which actually only took the Cavaliers a quarter-and-a-half, tying the contest at 98-apiece midway through the third – tops the previous mark of 21 points, overcome by Baltimore against Philadelphia in 1948.
And for the team that’s done things the hard way all season long – the Wine and Gold staged their comeback with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love playing exactly zero minutes in the fourth quarter.
”We just never quit,” praised Tyronn Lue after the win. “We knew the importance of this game. To go up 3-0 makes things a lot more difficult for those guys. So this was a great comeback, a great team effort, and a great defensive half for us.”
The Pacers could do no wrong before intermission on Thursday – tallying 74 points on 57 percent shooting, including 59 percent from beyond the arc and a perfect 14-for-14 mark from the stripe. Paul George netted 23 points through two quarters and Indiana was dominating Cleveland in the paint and on the boards – holding the Cavs to 37 percent shooting and forcing eight turnovers.
But that was as good as it’d get for a Pacers team now one game away from being swept for the first time in franchise history.
In the third quarter, the Cavs cut Indy’s edge to 14 points with 5:29 to play in the period. But back-to-back triples by Jeff Teague and Lance Stephenson put the Pacers back up 20. But James and the Cavaliers kept coming and three-pointers by LeBron, Deron Williams and J.R. Smith ignited a 17-4 run that got Cleveland to within seven heading to the fourth.
By that time, the Pacers were obviously pressing and the Wine and Gold – led predominantly by LeBron and a second unit supporting cast of Williams, Channing Frye, Iman Shumpert and Kyle Korver – were on a roll that Nate McMillan’s squad simply couldn’t stop.
After notching 13 points in the third quarter, Cleveland’s four-time MVP was even better in the fourth, finishing with 15 points, five boards and three assists, willing the Wine and Gold to the victory – LeBron’s 20th straight First Round win dating back to the 2012 postseason.
Even after the Cavaliers knotted the contest midway through the fourth, Indiana re-took the lead twice more – including a 104-103 advantage with 5:15 to play. But LeBron scored on a finger-roll on Cleveland’s next possession, giving the Cavaliers a lead they wouldn’t relinquish the rest of the way.
On the night, LeBron finished with 41 points – going 14-for-27 from the floor, including 6-of-12 from long-range, leading Cleveland with 13 boards and both teams with 12 assists to go with two blocked shots and a steal. He and the Cavaliers didn’t commit a single turnover after halftime.
LBJ tallies triple-double and Cavs get boost from the bench.
”We knew we’d have to take one of their punches; but they gave us a flurry, more than we expected,” explained James. “We knew that it’s a 48-minute game and we talked at halftime about getting a couple of stops and then get the ball flying and moving around on offense and we were able to do that and the momentum changed for us.”
Love and Irving each notched 13 points in the win, but both struggled from the floor – combining to shoot just 8-of-29.
J.R. Smith and Channing Frye also pitched in with 13 points on Thursday night – with Swish going 4-of-8 from long-range, netting double-figures for the first time in the series and Frye recording 11 of his 13 points in the final period, going 3-of-4 from the field, 2-of-3 from deep.
Kyle Korver finished with 12 points as he continued to torment the Pacers – going 4-of-5 from beyond the arc against them on Thursday night. In five games (including Playoffs) against Indy in a Cavaliers uniform, Korver is now shooting an obscene 72 percent (18-of-25) from long-distance.
Almost lost in the big numbers was the fantastic blue-collar effort of Tristan Thompson in that decisive third quarter. The sixth-year big man’s energy eventually infected the entire team. On the night, Thompson finished with nine points and 10 rebounds, snagging seven of those on the offensive end. Two of his game-high three blocks came in the third.
The loss spoiled another big effort by a frustrated Paul George, who led the Pacers with 36 points, going 10-of-28 from the floor and 11-of-11 from the line, adding a game-high 15 boards and nine assists. Teague finished with 15 points and Thaddeus Young grabbed 10 of his 14 rebounds off the offensive glass.
Lance Stephenson again gave Indiana a nice lift, but after hitting three of his first five shots went just 1-for-7 the rest of the way.
Turning Point — Almost any moment of that dramatic third quarter could pass for Thursday’s turning point, but it was a rebound by Kevin Love that symbolized the Cavaliers’ relentless effort.
Trailing by 18 – 77-59 – with just over eight minutes to go in the quarter, Myles Turner’s missed layup was tipped towards the Cavs bench by Tristan Thompson. Love sprinted down the baseline and saved the ball behind his back to Thompson while falling into the first row.
Thompson fed the ball ahead and J.R. Smith found LeBron in the corner – where he canned his second straight three-pointer to cut Indy’s lead to 15.
The Pacers immediately called timeout. But the fuse was already lit.
By the Numbers – 5,670 … points that LeBron James has now scored in his Playoff career, passing Kobe Bryant for 3rd on the NBA’s all-time list. James should catch Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (5,762) this postseason, with Michael Jordan (5,987) still clinging to the top spot.
Quotable – Kevin Love, on the Cavaliers’ Game 3 comeback …
”We just wanted to chip away and try to get it down to ten by the end of the third quarter. They gave us their best shot in the first half. We had to throw some haymakers in the second half. It was an unbelievable performance in the fourth quarter, a special performance.”
Up Next — After pulling out Game 3 in dramatic fashion on Thursday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the Cavaliers will practice in Indianapolis for the next couple days before trying to complete the sweep back here on Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. If the Pacers are able to extend the series, both squads return to The Q for Game 5 on Tuesday night.
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