Pac­ers sur­vive Cavs

Rally from 22 points to win, 97-95

Sun.Star Davao - - FRONT PAGE -

IN­DI­ANAPO­LIS — When In­di­ana Pac­ers coach Nate McMillan went small Fri­day night, Lance Stephen­son came up big.

He baited LeBron James into a late tech­ni­cal foul. He made play af­ter play down the stretch and when the game was over the Pac­ers' show­man was cel­e­brat­ing.

Stephen­son had 16 points and 11 re­bounds to help In­di­ana erase a 22-point, first-half deficit and beat Cleve­land 97-95. It's the Pac­ers' third win this sea­son over the three-time de­fend­ing Eastern Con­fer­ence champs.

"It feels good, but it's a long sea­son," a more sub­dued Stephen­son said in the locker room. "They're a tough team but we came out and played smart de­fense and made the right plays."

It was a stun­ning twist, com­ing al­most ex­actly nine months af­ter the Cavs ral­lied from a 26-point deficit on the same court to beat In­di­ana in the play­offs.

This time, the Pac­ers handed Cleve­land a third straight con­found­ing loss. The first two came by a com­bined 62 points and on Fri­day the Cavs were outscored 84-61 over the fi­nal three quar­ters on the sec­ond night of back-to-back road games.

Stephen­son had plenty of help. Dar­ren Col­li­son scored 22 points and Vic­tor Oladipo had 19.

But the guy with a knack for get­ting in­side op­po­nents' heads with un­think­able stunts, like blow­ing in James' ear or giv­ing him a thumb in the side — as tele­vi­sion re­plays showed dur­ing the game — played the in­sti­ga­tor per­fectly.

James had 21 points, 11 as­sists, eight re­bounds and was called for a tech­ni­cal foul af­ter re­act­ing to Stephen­son's jab by shov­ing him in the chest. Oladipo made the free throw to give In­di­ana an 84-82 lead with 7:53 to go, a costly point.

The four-time MVP wasn't amused.

"Lance is just a lit­tle dirty, that's all. He's a lit­tle dirty," James said. "I should have known, I've known since school, it's not the guy who tells the joke that gets caught it's the guy who laughs. They caught me on the re­tal­i­a­tion. He played well, though."

Stephen­son en­tered the game with 5:52 left in the third quar­ter when 6-foot-11 cen­ter Do­man­tas Sabo­nis picked up his fourth foul. McMillan let him play the rest of the way.

AP PHOTO/DARRON CUM­MINGS

TOUGH SHOT. In­di­ana Pac­ers' Vic­tor Oladipo (4) shoots against Cleve­land Cava­liers' Tris­tan Thomp­son (13) and LeBron James dur­ing the sec­ond half of an NBA bas­ket­ball game, Fri­day, Jan. 12, 2018, in In­di­anapo­lis.

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