James keys huge come­back

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS -

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.

MICHAEL CON­ROY / AP

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.

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