LeBron James leads Cleveland to historic comeback win
INDIANAPOLIS — It was as rough of a first half as LeBron James has faced in his career, followed by as dramatic a comeback as the 70-year history of the NBA has ever seen.
The Cleveland Cavaliers erased a 25-point halftime hole to beat the Indiana Pacers 119-114 on Thursday and go up 3-0 in their first-round series. It was the largest halftime deficit overcome in the history of the NBA playoffs. The Cavs’ largest deficit in the game was 26 points.
The Cavs flipped the script with a masterful third quarter in which they outscored the Pacers 35-17 (mirroring the 33-20 outburst they had in the third in Game 2), with James nearly matching Indiana on his own with 13 points in the quarter, including three 3-pointers that moved him into fourth place on the all-time postseason triples list.
Cleveland’s defense was more impressive, holding Indiana to 5-for-26 shooting in the period (19.2 percent).
James finished with 41 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists, his 17th career triple-double ever in the playoffs. Paul George had 36 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists, just missing out on recording the second time in league history opponents dropped triple-dips against one another in the postseason (Walt Frazier and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar did it against each other back in 1970).
According to Elias Sports Bureau research, LeBron’s ninth career postseason 30-point triple-double passed Oscar Robertson (eight) for most in NBA history. LeBron scored or assisted on 73 points, the most of his playoff career.
After all the hand-wringing over the defending champion Cavs’ start to the playoffs after they nearly blew back-to-back double-digit leads at home, it was their turn to put the scare into the home team.
Only they did it to completion.
The comeback seemingly came out of nowhere. The first half could not have gone much worse for the Cavs as they shot just 36.7 percent (18-for-49), while allowing Indiana to shoot 56.8 percent (25-for-44). They were outrebounded 26-17 and had eight turnovers that led to 12 Pacers points, while Indiana coughed it up just five times leading to four points for the Cavs. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love did not play a single minute in the fourth quarter.
The 25-point halftime deficit tied for the largest of James’ postseason career, along with the time the San Antonio Spurs laid the smack down on him and the Cavs in the 2007 NBA Finals.