LeBron James' triple-double helped Cleveland erase the largest halftime deficit in National Basketball Association playoff history Thursday night as the Cavaliers defeated the Indiana Pacers 119-114 to take a 3-0 series lead in their first-round series.
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) reacts after a dunk in the third quarter against the Indiana Pacers in game one of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena.
However, the defending champions, following a pattern that began late in the regular season, almost gave away an 18-point lead in the 4th as the Pacers crawled within 4 in the final minute before Cleveland closed it out.
A loss like this can linger mentally on a fragile team like the Pacers, especially after it was James who ended up putting his foot on their throat. "We were on point defensively and offensively we knew exactly what we wanted to get to and that was a big win for us". "We'll figure it out". So like I told you, I'd much rather have an 18-point lead than not a lead at all. "But we're right there on turning the switch on what we really can become". He did have eight of Cleveland's 19 turnovers, miscues that allowed the Pacers to hang around.
To start the game, the Cavaliers raised serious questions about their defense and overall cohesiveness, giving up back-to-back 37-point quarters in the first half. Cleveland is 12-0 when starting 2-0 in the postseason. But, understand the milestones he passed in Game 3 that doesn't include a 26-point comeback.
"It's you guys writing us off that this game is going to be easy for the Cavs", George said.
"Early on in the third (quarter), I saw it getting out of hand. And that was big".
George also called out second-year center Myles Turner, who finished with six points on just 3-for-10 shooting, five rebounds and three blocks last night.
Now, they're heading home in a hole they still believe they can climb from. "Channing, Shump, D-Will, Kyle, those guys came in and gave us huge minutes". Just putting work in and understanding I'm not the best shooter on that team when it comes to 3-pointers.
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So expensive! When I say I'm a lucky guy, it's because I was with Xavi, Iniesta and now with Silva. We were not able to take enough points despite our performances, which were quite good".
George was also upset that the fiery Stephenson briefly lost his composure.
The Cavaliers opened a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
At a glance, though, it's impossible to fully understand the ins and outs of the Cavs' Game 3 victory over Indiana.
"That was a championship-level win right there", Irving said.
According to ESPN's Tom Haberstroh, no player in Cavaliers history has ever had that specific stat line in a playoff game.
However, Love knocked down two free throws and C.J. Miles was whistled for an offensive foul, thwarting the Pacers' comeback.
"We don't get the respect that these guys deserve because Mike Conley doesn't go insane, he has class and he just plays the game", Fizdale said. That's unacceptable. That's unprofessional. Conley, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph accounted for 21 points. Leonard made sure of that. It was the type of lethal injection James has made his signature - imposing his will, physically, on his opponents, then, as they brace themselves for more, putting on the feather finishing touches. The Pacers explored trading George at the trade deadline amid rumors that he will likely leave as a free agent in 2018 if the Pacers aren't close to title contention.
The 74 first-half points are the Pacers' most this season, topping the 68 they scored during the first two quarters April 8 at Orlando.
While the first half was mostly forgettable, in the second half the Cavs flipped the script and showed the rest of the National Basketball Association just how unsafe the defending champs remain.