CLEVELAND, OH – The Indiana Pacers continue to sneak up on the basketball world.
Victor Oladipo was the talk of Game 1 on Sunday, scoring a game-high 32 points, as Indy shocked the Cleveland Cavaliers with a 98-80 win. Four-time NBA MVP LeBron James has never lost a first round playoff series in his career (12-0) and Sunday’s loss was his first defeat in the opening round of the postseason since 2012 (previously won 21 in a row).
Indiana’s defensive was superb, limiting the Cavs to 38.5% (30-of-78) shooting. From beyond the three-point line, Cleveland hit just eight of 34 attempts (23.5%).
Outside of James’ triple-double of 24 points/12 assists/10 rebounds, only two Cavaliers scored in double-figures.
The first half of this game went about as well as it possibly could for Indiana.
Oladipo established himself with 16 first half points, including hitting four of his five three-point attempts. Lance Stephenson was engaged, scoring nine points and grabbing four rebounds.
They also played great defense.
Cleveland scored just 14 first quarter points, their lowest output of the entire season. The Cavaliers shot just 2-of-14 from downtown and 36.6% (15-of-41) as a whole in the first half.
Tied at 4-4 early in the first quarter, the Pacers broke loose on a 14-0 run to grab a strong lead. After one, Indy was on top 33-14 and left the crowd in Cleveland stunned.
James was held without a field goal in the first quarter, but scored 12 points in the second to lead the Cavs. The Pacers answered every Cleveland run, however, including seven straight Cavs points to start quarter two. Indy led at the half, 55-38.
Indiana kept that large lead for most of the third quarter, even going up by as many as 23, but went ice cold as the Cavaliers responded. The Pacers made only one field goal over the last 8:01 of the frame, letting the Cavs draw closer. Cleveland finished the third on a 15-4 run, making it an eight-point game after three.
James made his presence felt quickly in the fourth, trimming Indy’s edge down to seven. That forced Pacers head coach Nate McMillan to bring Oladipo back into the game. Indiana’s star provided a big boost, nailing a pair of shots in the midst of an important 12-2 Pacers run.
The Cavaliers hung tough down the stretch, with the score at 90-78 with 4:44 remaining. Neither side could get anything to fall for a couple of minutes before Oladipo put this game to bed. His jumper with 2:26 to go made it 92-78. And then with 1:59 left, Oladipo pulled up and drained a dagger of a three-pointer.
Cleveland pulled their starters following a timeout and the Pacers cruised to the finish line, stealing a Game 1 win at Quicken Loans Arena.
Oladipo’s final stat line read: 32 points, six rebounds, four assists and four steals. Myles Turner chipped in 16 points and eight boards.
Oladipo was the man in this ballgame, a game in which a select few Pacers weren’t even at their best. Bojan Bogdanovic scored 15 points and six rebounds, but shot just 5-of-17. Thaddeus Young only scored seven points (3-of-4 shooting) and pulled down three rebounds. Darren Collison made only two of nine shots, including one of four from deep.
Despite all of that, Indiana won by 18 points in Cleveland.
With Game 1 already in hand, all of the pressure falls on the Cavs in Game 2. That clash will take place in Cleveland on Wednesday, with tip scheduled for 7:00 p.m.