James keys huge comeback
INDIANAPOLIS — LeBron James celebrated another milestone with the greatest second-half comeback in NBA playoff history on Thursday night.
One more win at Indiana and the four-time MVP will be crowned king of the first round.
James scored 41 points while padding his postseason resume with yet another triple-double, leading the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers back from a 25-point halftime deficit to a 119-114 victory over the Pacers.
“We knew we had to take some punches, but it was a flurry, more than we expected,” James said. “At halftime, I was just looking at the guys and telling them, ‘Let’s get a couple stops.’ ”
Officially, it will go down as the third-largest comeback in playoff history. But the largest halftime deficit overcome previously was 21 points, by Baltimore against Philadelphia in 1948.
As for James, he keeps moving up in the record books, too.
He scored 28 points in the second half and finished with 13 rebounds and 12 assists, moving past Kobe Bryant and into third on the NBA’s all-time playoff scoring list.
Bryant had 5,640 points; James now has 5,669.
James also won his 20th consecutive first-round game, matching a feat achieved by three former LA Lakers: Michael Cooper, Magic Johnson and James Worthy.
With a win on Sunday, James will have the longest first-round winning streak under the current playoff format, which began in 1984.
Cleveland has won 11 straight first-round games since James returned to his hometown team.
And this time, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irvin got a firsthand glimpse of James’ mastery as they watched the entire fourth quarter from the bench.
Of course, none of that matters to James right now. All he wants to do is chase a fourth title.
“I just try to put myself in position to help my teammates win no matter who’s on the floor with me,” James said. “I just don’t settle for being not as great as I can be.”
Paul George did everything he could to get Indiana back in the series. He scored 36 points, grabbed a playoff career-high 15 rebounds and finished with nine assists, one short of his second postseason triple-double.
George even held James in check in the first half. But it wasn’t enough. Now the Pacers are one loss away from being eliminated by James’ team for the fourth time in six years.
“Early on in the third quarter I saw it getting out of hand. I trust the guys on that floor, but I just thought you know, I watched it kind of unravel that’s when I should have stepped in and demanded the ball a little bit more,” George said.
Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James celebrates a basket against the Indiana Pacers during the second half of Game 3 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal on Thursday in Indianapolis. The Cavaliers won 119-114 to take a 3-0 stranglehold on the series.