Cavaliers even series with Pacers

The Associated Press
Tom Withers

CLEVELAND–The situation was dire, requiring playoff dominance. LeBron James delivered.
No surprise there.
Taking matters into his own hands, James scored 46 points and added 12 rebounds as the Cleveland Cavaliers bounced back from a poor performance in the series-opener by holding off the Indiana Pacers 100-97 last night to even their first-round playoff matchup at one game apiece.
Dazzling from the start, James scored the game’s first 16 points and had 29 at halftime, ruling the floor as he has done in so many previous post-seasons.
“Coach Lue called up the first play for me and it went down,” James noted. “So we went back to it [and] I was able to hit another one.
“And it just felt like I was in a really good rhythm, so I just tried to see how long I could stay in that zone and try to make a mark on the game early on,” he added.
“I played my game.”
But in a season in which nothing has been easy for the Cavs, Cleveland was lucky that Indiana’s Victor Oladipo missed a wide-open three-pointer that would have tied it with 27 seconds left.
“I got a clean look, I shot, and I just missed,” Oladipo said, shrugging his shoulders.
“If I had that look again, I would take it every time.”
Kevin Love scored 15 points but Cleveland’s all-star centre jammed his left thumb–the same hand he broke earlier this season–while deflecting a pass and sat out the final 3:43 left with the Cavs clinging to a slim lead.
Lue said Love could have returned and “he’s fine” for Game 3 tomorrow night.
As long as James is OK, the Cavs always will have a chance.
Lue shook up his starting lineup for Game 2 and Kyle Korver contributed 12 points (all on “threes”), made several hustling plays, and took two charges.
Oladipo scored 22–he was in early foul trouble–while Myles Turner 18 for the Pacers, who shocked the Cavs with an overpowering win in Game 1 and head home full of confidence.
Indiana clawed back from an 18-point deficit and was within 95-92 when Oladipo, who scored 32 points in the opener, somehow came free off a screen but missed maybe his easiest shot in two games.
“We blew a coverage and we were lucky, and I’d rather be on time, on target, than to be lucky,” James said.
“But he missed it and I was able to get the rebound.”
James then made three free throws over the final 22 seconds as the Cavs avoided falling behind 2-0 on the series.
The 33-year-old James was expected to be more aggressive than in Game 1, when he was unusually passive, deferred to teammates, and suffered the first playoff-opening loss of his career.
But James was his unstoppable self again last night, and there wasn’t a whole lot the Pacers could do about him in the first half.
“We just wanted him to set the tone and he did that by getting to the basket early, making a couple jump shots,” Lue said.
“But we ran the same first play until they stopped it,” Lue added. “He kept getting what he wanted.
“We just kind of followed his lead from there.”
Elsewhere in the NBA, Houston dumped Minnesota 102-82 to lead their series 2-0 while Utah beat Oklahoma City 102-95 to pull even at 1-1.

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