​Cavaliers advance to second round with 105-101 win over Pacers in Game 7 
The Indiana Pacers gave the Cleveland Cavaliers all they could handle. The Pacers pushed the Cavs to seven grueling, hard-fought games in the first round of the NBA Playoffs, but Cleveland escaped with a 4-3 series win after grinding their way to a 105-101 victory on Sunday in Quicken Loans Arena.

“Kudos and a big shout-out to the Indiana Pacers,” LeBron James said. “They were a tough team…They just have a well-rounded team and definitely pushed us to the brink.”

James was magical the entire series, at times required to carry the Cavs on his broad shoulders. The team needed his heroics again on Sunday, and James obliged with 45 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. He also totaled four steals in the afternoon meeting, the first of which allowed him to break a tie with Scottie Pippen (395 career steals) to become the NBA’s all-time leader in career playoff steals.

Through much of the series, James hadn’t been receiving overwhelming help from his teammates. Several of them, however, stepped-up in a big way on Sunday, led by Tristan Thompson, who had only played 23 total minutes in the first six games of the series. Thompson made his first start of the series on Sunday, a decision Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue said was made Saturday morning, and finished with a double-double (15 points, 10 rebounds) in 35 minutes.

“The whole series long, we just told him to be ready,” Lue said. “Coming in to Game 7, to start and perform the way he did was huge…To step up in Game 7 was unbelievable.”

Kevin Love had struggled offensively the entire series, averaging just 11 points in the first six games (more than seven points below his regular season average); and through three quarters on Sunday, he had totaled only six points. But Love had eight big points in the fourth quarter, the final three of which came on a three-pointer that gave Cleveland a 91-79 lead with 7:35 to play.

Indiana proceeded to chipped away at Cleveland’s lead and brought the game within a 100-96 margin with 50 seconds to play that forced Lue to call a timeout. The play Lue drew up in the stoppage, though, might have been the biggest play of the season (honorable mention to Thompson’s block on Darren Collison with 1:39 remaining).

James had the ball on the left wing and zipped a pass to the right wing to Kyle Korver. As soon as James released the ball, he cut to the basket, where Korver found him with a hot pass for an easy layup. The play gave Cleveland a 102-96 lead with 30 seconds to play and essentially iced the game.

“I was scared,” Lue said. “I was scared, but Kyle made a great read, great pass, LeBron made a great back-cut. That kind of sealed the game for us.”

The standout performances didn’t end with Thompson and Love. Cavs point guard George Hill missed the previous three games in the series with back spasms and didn’t play the entire first half on Sunday. Nevertheless, Hill played the final 19 minutes of the game and totaled 11 points, while also playing superb defense on Indiana’s guards.

“George Hill, not playing the first half, being off for a while, coming in and giving us what he had in Game 7 was huge for us off the bench along with K-Love, who hit some big shots for us in that stretch in the fourth quarter,” Lue said. “It was a total team win.”

Fans in Quicken Loans Arena had never been treated to a Game 7 before, while the game was also Cleveland’s first Game 7 in the first round in franchise history. The primary reason that the Cavs are moving on to face the top-seeded Toronto Raptors is James, who was the catalyst in the Cleveland’s recovery from a 2-1 series deficit against Indiana.

On Sunday, James became the first player in league history to score 20 points or more in 200 playoff games. Matters for he and the Cavs won’t get any easier in the second round.

“I’m burnt right now,” James said after the game. “I’m not thinking about Toronto right now until tomorrow. I’m ready to go home. I’m tired.”

James has certainly earned a rest. 
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​POSTED 04/29/2018 17:45
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