INDIANAPOLIS – It was right there for the taking. A 3-1 series lead over the mighty LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. But it just wasn’t meant to be for the Indiana Pacers on Sunday night.
Indiana erased another double-figure deficit, just like in Game 3, but in Game 4 the Pacers were not able to hold on. Indy led 93-91 with 4:28 remaining, but never led again, as the Cavs made more plays down the stretch to earn a series-tying 104-100 win.
Victor Oladipo struggled badly on Sunday, scoring 17 points on 5-of-20 shooting. Indiana’s offense flowed through Oladipo in the fourth quarter, but repeated isolated possessions did not end well for the Pacers and their top player.
Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis were arguably Indy’s best players in this game. Turner dealt with some foul trouble, putting him on the bench in key spots in the second half, but finished with 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting. Sabonis was effective playing in place of Turner, scoring a team-high 19 points (9-for-12 from the field) and pulling down six rebounds.
Thaddeus Young led all rebounders with 16, but hit just five of 12 shots. Bojan Bogdanovic, Game 3’s hero, was 4-of-13 and made just two triples. Darren Collison missed nine of 14 shot attempts, scoring 12 points.
The Pacers finished with seven double-figure scorers, but it just didn’t feel like anyone took the game over. Especially when it needed to be taken over.
James didn’t get a ton of help in Game 4, George Hill was out with a bad back and Kevin Love scored only five points on 2-of-10 shooting. It didn’t matter much to James, who had a 32-point/13-rebound/seven-assist night.
Once again, the Pacers came out flat to start. Indiana didn’t look particularly good in the first quarter, as the team shot poorly and saw a 8-0 Cavs run break an early 13-13 tie. Cleveland led 30-24 after one after JR Smith nailed a three-quarters court heave at the buzzer. That shot ending up being important in what turned out to be a tight game.
The Cavaliers flexed their muscle a bit in the second quarter, racing out to a lead as large as 49-33 with 6:01 to play in the half. Indiana chipped away at the Cavs’ advantage, but could only get as close as ten at 60-50 when halftime arrived.
James powered Cleveland in the first half, putting up 23 points and grabbing six boards.
Similar to Game 3, the Blue and Gold came out of the locker room and again gained some momentum quickly in the second half. The Pacers used a 10-2 run in the opening 3:07 of the third quarter to rapidly pull within two points at 62-60. Indiana never did go in front in the third, as the Cavs continuously made timely buckets to maintain some breathing room, but the home team stood strong. Cleveland led 80-78 after three.
For the first time since the opening stages of the ballgame, Indy led 83-82 just over a minute into the fourth. Sabonis canned his lone triple of the game, sending the sellout crowd at Bankers Life Fieldhouse into a fever pitch.
Each side traded the lead for most of the fourth, with the Pacers emerging with the two-point edge with 4:28 remaining.
Indiana couldn’t add to that lead and paid for it, with Kyle Korver drilling a three and James roaring to the hoop for a layup to give the Cavs a 96-93 lead. Oladipo responded with a jumper at the 2:44 mark, but Korver fired right back with another triple to make it a 99-95 game. Indy followed with a bad possession that resulted in a shot clock violation, giving the ball back to James. The four-time MVP barreled his way to the basket again, sinking another layup to make it 101-95 with 1:52 left.
That just about did it for Game 4, as neither side scored again until Young dunked with 15.2 seconds to go. Korver swished two free throws with 14 ticks left. Then Oladipo put in a three from the corner with 11.9 seconds and suddenly, things got a little interesting.
Jeff Green received the inbounds pass, but was met in a hurry by Lance Stephenson. It appeared Stephenson got a lot of basketball and one official even signaled for a jump ball, but after review a foul was charged to Stephenson and Green made one of two free throws to make it 104-100 with nine seconds on the board.
As boos rained down, Bogdanovic’s final three-point attempt was off and the Cavaliers escaped Indianapolis with the victory they so desperately needed.
Game 5, crucial as could be in this Eastern Conference first round series, comes from Cleveland on Wednesday. Game time is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.