CLEVELAND, OH – LeBron James was superhuman on Wednesday night. Nonetheless, the Indiana Pacers still nearly stole Game 2 against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
James finished with 46 points (17-of-24 shooting), 12 rebounds and five assists to lead the Cavs to a 100-97 win. The four-time NBA MVP scored all 13 of Cleveland’s points in a game-opening 13-0 run, but Indy did not relent.
Victor Oladipo had a clean look at a game-tying three-pointer with 27.5 seconds left in the game, but the shot was off and Cleveland emerged with the series-evening victory.
Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue said he wanted James to be more aggressive in Game 2. Those words must have gotten through to James, who nailed his first five shots and scored Cleveland’s first 16 points.
In addition to James going off early, Oladipo was hit with two extremely quick fouls. Oladipo had to head to the bench only 62 seconds into Game 2, a nightmare scenario for Indiana.
Oladipo didn’t play for the rest of the opening frame, leading to the Cavs leading by as many as 18. Cleveland led 33-18 after one.
The first quarter of Wednesday’s game was the complete opposite of Sunday. The Pacers led 33-14 after one in Game 1. The Cavaliers were the ones with big lead in Game 2. James didn’t take his first shot in Game 1 until the closing moments of the first quarter. James finished Game 2’s first quarter with 20 points.
Oladipo’s return to the floor, coupled with James’ exit, gave Indiana a spark in period number two. The Blue and Gold utilized a 15-3 run to get themselves back into a game that looked rather bleak, pulling as close as four points. But a turning point came at the 4:47 mark and it was a play that favored the Cavs.
Kevin Love got Oladipo to bite on a pump fake from beyond the arc, getting the foul call and three shots after lunging into the airborne Oladipo. Love made all three free throws and Oladipo went back to the bench for the remainder of the first half.
Cleveland led by nine following Love’s free throws and closed the half well without Oladipo on the court. At the break, the Cavs led 58-46.
James scored 29 points, grabbed eight rebounds and dished out four assists in the first half alone. With Oladipo scoring seven points in just eight minutes of action, Indy had to be pleased to only trail by a dozen going into the locker room.
It took some time, but the Pacers roared back into the game in the third quarter. A 13-2 run, which Oladipo was solidly in the middle of, brought Indiana back to within five points at the 3:42 mark. Cleveland scored just 16 points in the frame, but Indy was only able to counter with 21 of their own. The Cavaliers went into the final quarter of Game 2 with a 74-67 cushion.
Indiana kept grinding, drawing as close as four points again early in the fourth, but the Cavs simply wouldn’t back down. Cleveland stretched their advantage back up to ten near the midway point of the quarter, but the Pacers just keep clawing away.
The Cavaliers continued to keep Indy more than one possession off of their pace until under one minute remained.
Darren Collison drained a big triple with 51.2 ticks left, making it a 95-92 game. George Hill was then whistled for an offensive foul on the other end, setting the stage for the Pacers to pull within one point or tie. Oladipo ended up getting a rather wide open look to tie the ballgame, but his shot was off and Cleveland hit their free throws down the stretch to win.
Oladipo, playing just 28 minutes with foul trouble and constant double team pressure, still scored a team-high 22 points. Myles Turner was solid, especially when Oladipo was on the bench, finishing with 18 points and five boards. Collison also chipped in 16 points, hitting seven of 11 shots.
Aside from James’ 46 points, Cleveland had just two other double-figure scorers. Love finished with 15 and Kyle Korver added 12, all three-point baskets.
Love also hurt his left hand, the same hand that gave him some trouble throughout the season, late in the game and did not return. Lue said postgame he will be fine for Game 3, but it is still a storyline worth keeping an eye on.
With the series now tied at 1-1, the scene now shifts to Indianapolis. Game 3 goes down from Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Friday, with tipoff slated for 7:00 p.m.