The Cleveland Cavaliers moved to within two games of a first-round National Basketball Association play-off win over the Indiana Pacers with a 117-111 success. But any conversation about whether the Cavs are "fine" or no has to start with this fact.
For the first time in franchise history the Cavs had 3 players score 25 or more points in a playoff game Monday night.
Paul George paced IN with 32 points, eight rebounds and seven assists IN the defeat.
After two days off, the series resumes in Indianapolis on Thursday.
Pacers G Lance Stephenson worked out for the Cavs in January. But it will require being much better in the fourth quarter. However, the decision to put him on Love (and then keep him on Love), was a huge turning point in another coaching headscratcher from McMillan.
As mentioned above, Cleveland was a well-oiled machine offensively. They don't - they can't - get closer than that.
3-Point Goals: 13-31, .419 (Irving 4-10, Love 3-4, Dero.Williams 3-4, Shumpert 1-2, Smith 1-2, Frye 1-3, R.Jefferson 0-1, James 0-2, Korver 0-3).
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Even with George staking his claim to the "Best player in the East not named LeBron" conversation, there's nothing the Pacers can do to simultaneously handle Tristan Thompson's offensive rebounding, Love's natural inside-outside game, and James's lethal combination of off-the-dribble strength to the hoop and pinpoint distribution.
The Cavaliers were ruthless during this stretch: Love backed down Stephenson to draw a foul, James fed Love deep in the paint for a turnaround hook, Love backed down Stephenson to draw another foul, Love crashed the weakside glass for an easy tip-in over smaller defenders and then Love drew a third set of free throws by pounding on Miles.
"It's our offense", Lue said.
He didn't play a single minute on Saturday, and he sure played like he doesn't want that to happen again this postseason.
It's time for the Cavs to make an adjustment there, too. There's no reason not to expect more double-teams and that's where George would like to see the big men flash and make themselves open.
"I wanted to play, they didn't want me to play", said Smith, who is determined to play in Game 3.
Steals: 14 (T.Young 6, Miles 2, Stephenson 2, Ellis, George, Teague, Turner). He hasn't been sidestepping anything.
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"He had 18 the first half", Lue said of the strategy against George.
Not every player takes criticism the same way, so it'll be interesting to see how IN responds to their leader.
"If they let me play, I'll play", he said. As you can imagine, with a five-inch difference, that didn't go well.
The Pacers are averaging over 50 percent from the field and have lost both games by a combined seven points.
Blown big leads. Defensive breakdowns. The Cavs don't look sharp but they don't really need to to beat the Pacers. In the regular season, they surely loved to play at home and that won't change in the playoffs. After the game, Paul George was asked about it, and said Stephenson needs to channel those emotions. Stephenson will be itching to play in his first playoff game at The Fieldhouse in almost three years. "When it was his turn, he stepped up and played well".
Up as many as 19 and by 18 after three quarters, the talented but sometimes unfocused Cavs held on for a 117-111 victory over the stubborn Indiana Pacers on Monday night at Quicken Loans Arena.
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