Wrap-Up — It’s been said many times that this year’s Cavaliers sometimes make things tougher than they have to be.
And they took that trend right into the postseason – weathering some self-inflicted wounds and a late Pacers’ rally to take Game 1, 109-108, on Saturday afternoon at The Q.
The Cavaliers led by double-digits with just over nine minutes to play in regulation, but the Pacers took advantage of Cleveland’s poor free throw shooting and missed layups by LeBron James and Kyrie Irving – using a 17-7 run to tie the game at 105-apiece with just over three minutes to play.
Later in the period, LeBron James connected on a pair of free throws to give Cleveland a four-point lead, 109-105, with 1:17 to play.
On Indiana’s next possession, Kyrie picked Pacers center Myles Turner, but again missed a layup that would’ve put Cleveland ahead six. J.R. Smith grabbed the rebound, but fired the ball out of bounds trying to get it back to Irving.
Paul George responded by drilling his sixth triple of the night with 40.5 to play – getting the Pacers to within a point, 109-108.
After LeBron’s missed three-pointer with 20 seconds to go, the Pacers had one last opportunity.
But the Cavs forced George to give it up on Indy’s last possession and the Eastern Conference’s most notorious Cavs-Killer, C.J. Miles, couldn’t connect on the 14-footer – giving the Wine and Gold their eighth straight win over Indy at The Q; their 12th straight against Eastern Conference foes in the postseason.
The two squads who battled it out in a 135-130 double-overtime slugfest less than two weeks ago in Cleveland both shot well again on Saturday – with Tyronn Lue’s squad hitting on 54 percent of their shots and the Pacers, 49 percent. Each team hit 11 triples, but the Cavaliers kept Indy in the ballgame at the stripe – going 14-for-27 (52 percent) to the Pacers 17-for-20 mark.
”The playoffs are about adjustments and what you can do better,” said Coach Lue after the win. “I just think that if we got to those 50-50 balls and the offensive rebounds, that it would have been a totally different game. Hats off to (Indiana). They played well, but we’ll be better.”
The Cavaliers got major contributions from their Big Three in the win.
LeBron led everyone with 32 points and 13 assists – going 12-for-20 from the floor and 2-of-3 from long-range, adding six boards and three steals in the win.
Kyrie followed up with 23 points on 11-for-27 shooting – his 19th 20-point outing in his last 22 Playoff games – adding six assists, three boards and a pair of steals.
”(We had) a lot of easy missed free throws as well as layups that could have swayed the game and given us the cushion that we needed, but we just have a resilient group,” said Irving. “We believe in one another and it was a good first playoff win of a new journey – the 2017 Playoffs.”
Kevin Love did his heavy-lifting early – netting 10 of his 17 points in the first period, going 5-of-9 from the floor to go with four boards and two of Cleveland’s three blocks.
Tristan Thompson was 4-of-5 from the floor for eight points and led both squads with 13 boards, snagging six of those off the offensive glass.
The Big Three tallies 72 points as the Wine and Gold take Game 1.
Cleveland’s bench was solid in Saturday’s win, combining to shoot 8-of-13 from the floor – led by Channing Frye, who finished with 11 points on 3-for-4 shooting from long-range, 4-of-5 from the floor overall.
The Pacers got a big lift off their bench from Lance Stephenson, who finished with 16 points on 8-for-13 shooting to go with seven boards and three helpers in 26 minutes of action.
Paul George led the Pacers with 29 points – finishing 9-of-19 from the floor, including 6-of-8 from deep to go with seven assists, five boards and a steal. Jeff Teague finished with 15 points but was just 3-of-10 from the floor.
C.J. Miles – who averaged 19.3 points and shot 60 percent from deep in his last three games against Cleveland – was held in check on Saturday, finishing with five points and five fouls – going just 2-of-6 from the floor, including 1-of-3 from three-point range.
Turning Point — The turning point of a nail-biter like Game 1 usually comes in the closing seconds, but it was the Wine and Gold getting themselves some breathing room late in the third quarter that might have saved them on Saturday.
Through the first half of action, the game featured seven ties and six lead-changes. The Cavs led by seven at intermission, but Indy cut their edge to just a deuce, 80-78, with under five minutes to play in the third.
From that point, Richard Jefferson split a pair of free throws, Channing Frye canned his second three of the night and LeBron scored on a pair of point-blank buckets – keying a 10-0 run that put Cleveland up a dozen and some much-needed space against a Pacers team that outscored the Cavaliers, 24-17, in the final period.
By the Numbers – 12-0 … LeBron James’ record, including Saturday afternoon’s win, in the first game of each of his 12 career Playoff appearances – averaging 27.5 points on 54 percent shooting to go with 7.9 boards and 6.8 assists in those victories.
Quotable – LeBron James, on Saturday’s Game 1 at The Q …
”Game 1 has always been a feel-out game for myself – seeing what you can do, seeing ways you can get better. You always go into Game 2 even more prepared because you see what type of game plan they have. So like I said, as the series goes on and on you start to learn more about the team, learn more about your opponent and we’ve got to be better the next game. But it’s a great start for us.”
Up Next — After Saturday’s Game 1 thriller at The Q, the Cavaliers will try to hold serve on Monday night for Game 2 in Cleveland. The series shifts to Indiana for Game 3 on Thursday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, followed by a Sunday afternoon affair for Game 4. From there, the First Round matchup rotates venues – with Game 5 set for next Tuesday in Cleveland, Game 6 slated for next Thursday in Indianapolis and Game 7 the following Saturday at Quicken Loans Arena.
Calls of the Game