CLEVELAND, OH – As was the way of 2017-18 Indiana Pacers, there was no quit in the Blue and Gold on Sunday. LeBron James was just too much for Indy again.
James went for 45 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and four steals in the Cleveland Cavaliers‘ 105-101 Game 7 victory at Quicken Loans Arena.
The Pacers showed off their trademark resilience yet again, coming back from as many as 14 points down to lead in the second half. James and the Cavaliers overcame Indiana in the end, winning the best-of-seven series 4-3 to push James’ record in the first round of the playoff to 13-0.
In the final game of a breakout campaign, Pacers star Victor Oladipo went down swinging. Oladipo scored 30 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and dished out six assists to lead Indy.
James commands the spotlight, and rightfully so, but the four-time MVP finally got some much-needed help from his teammates on Sunday.
Tristan Thompson, who played in three of the first six games of the series, started for Cleveland and finished with 15 points and ten rebounds. Former Pacer George Hill, who sat out Games 4-6 with a bad back, also made a solid impact off of the bench with 11 points and six boards.
Indiana looked tight from the start of Game 7, jacking up and missing five threes to start and falling behind 9-2.
James was fantastic, shooting 5-of-5 from the field and making all three of his free throws. Thompson energized the home team, scoring six points and grabbing seven rebounds in the first quarter.
Cleveland led 31-19 after one.
The Cavaliers opened up a 14-point advantage early in the second period, but Indy responded. A 10-0 run brought the Pacers within four, but James put an end to that by taking over once again.
James scored rather easily on four straight possessions, pushing Cleveland’s lead back up to 14. The 15-year NBA veteran finished with 26 points on 11-of-16 shooting in the first half.
The Cavs outrebounded the Pacers 24-17 in the first 24 minutes, including 11-2 on the offensive end. Despite Cleveland dominating most of the first two quarters, Indiana was only down 54-43 going into the locker room.
They quickly erased that deficit.
Indiana outscored the Cavs 16-4 to start the third quarter, stunning the fans at the Q. Bojan Bogdanovic drilled a triple to cap the run, giving the Pacers their first lead of the game at 59-58.
The Blue and Gold briefly upped that lead to three points, but the Cavaliers came back to possess a close 76-74 edge after three.
Near the end of the third quarter, James was taken back to the locker room with cramps. He continued to sit out of action into the fourth quarter, seemingly a golden opportunity for the Pacers to jump on Cleveland without their leader. Indiana squandered that opening.
Hill and Kevin Love sparked a 6-0 Cavs run to start the fourth period, handing the home team a 82-74 cushion just a few minutes into the fourth. Cleveland went on to expand their lead to as many as 12, but again the Pacers would not back down.
Indy crept within seven points with 4:33 remaining, when a potential five-point swing changed the course of the game.
Trailing 95-88, Myles Turner fought for a rebound against JR Smith and prevailed with what appeared could have been called an and-one basket. Instead, officials called the offensive foul on Turner. That was Turner’s sixth and final foul and sent Smith to the other end with two shots, where he made both to push the Cavs ahead 97-88.
The Pacers fought to the bitter end with their season hanging in the balance, coming as close as four with under a minute to go. With 30.2 seconds left, though, Kyle Korver found James wide open at the hoop for a game-sealing lay-in.
Along with Oladipo, Darren Collison had a nice game. Collison scored 23 points, with 17 of them coming in the first half, on 9-of-11 shooting. Thaddeus Young turned in a double-double of 14 points and ten boards.
Despite a frustrating finish to what turned out to be a winnable series, this Pacers squad has a lot to look forward to.
Many pundits projected to finish as a lottery team in the 30-win range. They won 48. Once the postseason matchups were finalized, many of the same pundits gave Indiana very little chance to challenge Cleveland. The series went the full seven games, with the Cavs winning their four games by a combined 14 points.
The ground work is laid down for the Pacers to be around for quite sometime, with many in the state of Indiana hoping this is just the beginning.