LEBRON James carried the Cleveland Cavaliers back from 26 points down as he capped a monster triple-double effort with a clutch takeover to stun the Indiana Pacers, 119-114, and take a 3-0 lead in their first-round series of the 2017 NBA Playoffs on Thursday (Friday, Manila time) at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
James had his 17th triple-double in the playoffs, 13 behind all-time postseason leader Magic Johnson, with 41 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists to help Cleveland overcome a sluggish start with a sizzling second half to tie the largest comeback in playoff history.
The Pacers held a 10-point lead after the first quarter even with just two points for Paul George, as the rest of the team responded to their star’s call to step up. George then took over with 21 points in the second period to help extend the Indiana lead to 25, 74-49, at halftime. It’s the most Cleveland has allowed an opponent to score before the break with James in a Cavs jersey.
Indiana rode a blistering shooting from deep, going 10-of-17 from rainbow country before the break, while Cleveland shot 9-of-23 from long distance.
But the Cavs came alive in the third, unleashing a 12-3 run to cut the gap to 15. The Pacers managed to steady the ship after the wobble and got the lead back up to 20, but James sparked a 17-2 barrage to get within five, 89-84, near the close of the third. James had 13 in the period while George went scoreless.
George started strong in the fourth but the Cavs answered with a 14-2 run, capped by back-to-back dunks by James to take a 100-98 lead midway through the quarter. Jeff Teague, though, hit a three on the next play to get the Pacers back on the driver’s seat.
After Channing Frye hit a triple, George answered with a trey of his own. But James began his takeover with an easy basket off an inbounds play, an assist on a Kyle Korver corner trey, and a triple to push Cleveland up by four, 111-107, entering the final two minutes.
Cleveland then made Indiana pay for consecutive turnovers as Frye banged in a booming triple to go up by seven with less than a minute to play.
Indiana tried to stay within reach, but Cleveland held off the comeback bid with clutch free throws by James and Deron Williams as Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love watched from the bench fro the entire fourth quarter.
Love, Frye, Irving and JR Smith all scored 13 apiece for the Cavs who finished with 21-of-44 shooting from three-point land.
James also took the 3rd spot in the NBA postseason scoring list over Kobe Bryant with a basket near the halfway point of the second quarter
George flirted with a triple-double as he had 36 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists to lead the Pacers. Teague added 15 markers, and Indiana finished with 16-of-41 from beyond the arc.