Posted on January 13, 2018, by Travis Pulver
No one expected the Indiana Pacers to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers in the playoffs last season. But Pacers fans hoped their team could at least win one and keep from being swept—and they nearly did. They led Game Three of their First-Round series against the Cavs by 26-points. They lost the lead and went on to drop the game by five. But Friday night, the circumstances—and the outcome – were a little different.
It started out looking like the kind of game the Cavaliers have been in dire need of in recent weeks. A 22-0 run early in the first led to a 34-12 score at the end of the quarter. For a moment, all looked right in the world for the Cavs.
But then it slowly began to fall apart once again.
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Indiana began to slowly chip away at the lead. By the end of the half, it was down to 14-points, 58-44. With 5:23 to play in the third, the Cavs were still up by 12. But then a 16-2 run by the Pacers gave Indiana the lead heading into the final period.
Cleveland regained the lead and extended it to six points, 95-89, with 3:57 to play. But a 7-0 run capped off by a Victor Oladipo three-pointer gave the Pacers back the lead for good, 96-95, with 2:10 to play.
LeBron James had a chance to be the hero but stepped out of bounds when he tried to drive the baseline around Darren Collision with 2.3 seconds to play. He got another chance with a desperation three-pointer as time expired, but missed.
“Shouldn’t have came down to that point, but it did,” said Cavs coach Tyronn Lue after the game (ESPN). “Kevin threw a great pass. Bron, tough shot, but easy shot for him and he got a good look.”
Final score– Indiana 97 Cleveland 95.
Darren Collison led the Pacers in scoring with 22 points followed by Victor Oladipo with 19 points. LeBron James led all scorers with 27 points. Along with frustrating LeBron James, Lance Stephson chipped in 16 points and 11 rebounds off the bench.
Pacers fans had to love seeing their team overcome the Cavs, but to make the show even better, Lance Stephenson was up to some of his old tricks with LeBron James. He frustrated him enough at one point to provoke a shove from LeBron late in the game.
“Lance is just a little dirty, that’s all. He’s a little dirty,” James said (ESPN). “I should have known. I’ve known since school, it’s not the guy who tells the joke that gets caught, it’s the guy who laughs. They caught me on the retaliation. He played well, though.”
The loss is Cleveland’s fourth of the five-game road trip they’ve been on and eighth in their last 11 games. The win is Indiana’s third over Cleveland this season and improves their record to 22-20.
“It feels good, but it’s a long season,” Lance Stephenson said in the locker room after the game (ESPN). “They’re a tough team, but we came out and played smart defense and made the right plays.”
Indiana will try to win their fourth in five games when they take on the Suns in Phoenix Sunday night (8 PM ET). Cleveland will have another tough challenge on their hands with the Golden State Warriors Monday night (8 PM ET).