LeBron James Almost Single-Handedly Powers Cavaliers to Win
LeBron James scored 46 points and added 12 rebounds as the Cleveland Cavaliers bounced back from a poor performance in the series opener by holding off the Indiana Pacers, 100-97, on Wednesday night to even their Eastern Conference series at a game apiece.
Dazzling from the start, James scored Cleveland’s first 16 points and had 29 at halftime, dominating in the same way he has in so many previous postseasons.
“I played my game,” he said.
But in a season in which nothing has been easy for them, the Cavaliers were fortunate that the Pacers’ Victor Oladipo missed a wide-open 3-point attempt that would have tied the score with 27 seconds left.
“I got a clean look, I shot and I just missed,” Oladipo said, shrugging his shoulders. “If I had that look again, I would take it every time.”
Kevin Love, Cleveland’s All-Star center, scored 15, but he injured his left hand with 3 minutes 43 seconds left. It was the same hand Love broke during the regular season, and his status could affect the rest of this series — and perhaps Cleveland’s postseason run.
Kyle Korver added 12 points, all on 3-pointers, and made several hustling plays for the Cavs.
Oladipo scored 22 points — he was in early foul trouble — and Myles Turner 18 for the Pacers, who stunned the Cavaliers with an overpowering win in Game 1.
Indiana clawed back from an 18-point deficit on Wednesday and was within 95-92 when Oladipo, who scored 32 in the opener, somehow came free but missed maybe his easiest shot in two games. James grabbed the rebound and made three free throws over the final 22 seconds as the Cavs avoided falling behind by two games in the series. Game 3 is Friday night in Indianapolis.
James, 33, was expected to be more aggressive than he was in Game 1, when he deferred to teammates and suffered the first playoff-opening loss of his career. And, in fact, he was his unstoppable self again in Game 2.
Cavaliers Coach Tyronn Lue shook up his starting lineup, going with Korver and J. R. Smith over Jeff Green and Rodney Hood. Green did not score in the opener and Hood only started because Korver was dealing with a sore right foot.
While the changes were not that surprising, Oladipo leaving the game after 62 seconds was stunning. Indiana’s lightning-quick guard picked up an offensive foul and then got his second when he knocked over James, who was setting a screen.
With Oladipo off the floor, the Pacers did not have an offensive answer to James, who was in attack mode from the start. After not attempting his first shot in the opener until 1:52 remained in the first quarter, he dropped a short jumper just 16 seconds into Game 2.
And he was just getting started.
James made his first five attempts and scored Cleveland’s first 16 points, making two 3-pointers and then picking up assists on 3-pointers by Love and Korver. James outscored the Pacers, 20-18, in the first 12 minutes.
The rookie Donovan Mitchell scored 13 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter to help Utah win in Oklahoma City and tie their Western Conference playoff series at one game apiece.
Derrick Favors had career playoff bests of 20 points and 16 rebounds for the Jazz, and Ricky Rubio had 22 points, 9 assists and 7 rebounds in the first playoff win of his seven-year career.
Russell Westbrook had 19 points, 13 assists and 9 rebounds for the Thunder. Paul George, who scored 36 points in Game 1, finished with 18 on 6-for-21 shooting. Carmelo Anthony scored 17 points, but made just 6 of 18 shots.
Oklahoma City had two chances in the final minute to trim Utah’s lead with the Jazz leading, 99-95, but Anthony missed 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions.
Utah outrebounded Oklahoma City, 56-46, to take home-court advantage from the Thunder. Game 3 will be Saturday in Salt Lake City.