Cavs mount epic com­back in In­di­ana

James & Co. come from 26 down, de­feat Pac­ers to take 3-0 lead

Hawaii Tribune Herald - - SPORTS - By MICHAEL MAROT

AP Sports Writer INDIANAPOLIS — LeBron James cel­e­brated an­other mile­stone with the great­est sec­ond-half come­back in play­off his­tory.

Win one more at In­di­ana, 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 de­fend­ing cham­pion Cleve­land back from a 25-point half­time deficit to a 119-114 vic­tory over the Pac­ers on Thurs­day night.

“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 in the sec­ond half and fin­ished with 13 re­bounds and 12 as­sists, mov­ing past Kobe Bryant and into third on the NBA’s 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 other former Lak­ers — Michael Cooper, Magic Johnson and James Wor­thy. Win Sun­day, and he’ll 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. The only thing that mat­ters is (win­ning) — that’s what I’m here for.”

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 fin­ish­ing with nine as­sists, one short of his sec­ond post­sea­son triple-dou­ble. He even held James in check in the first half. And it still 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,” he said.

Af­ter trail­ing 74-49 at half­time, James helped spur a rally that cut the deficit to 77-62. In­di­ana ex­tended the lead to 20 on back-to-back 3-point­ers from Jeff Teague and Lance Stephenson, and then it was all Cavs.

Cleve­land fi­nally tied the score at 98 and took its first lead since the first quar­ter when James scored on a dunk with 6:27 to go. The teams traded leads on each of the next four bas­kets, but af­ter Ge­orge’s 3 with 5:15 to go gave In­di­ana a 104-103 lead, James scored on a layup that started a 12-5 run to seal it.

“We just never quit,” coach Ty­ronn Lue said. “We knew the im­por­tance of this game. To go up 3-0, makes things a lot more dif­fi­cult for those guys.” GRIZ­ZLIES 105, SPURS 94 MEM­PHIS, Tenn. — Mike Con­ley scored 24 points and handed out eight as­sists as Mem­phis snapped a 10-game post­sea­son skid against San An­to­nio.

The Griz­zlies pulled within 2-1 in this first-round Western Con­fer­ence se­ries, giv­ing first-year coach David Fiz­dale his first post­sea­son vic­tory. This also marked the Griz­zlies’ first win over the Spurs in the playoffs since April 2011, when Mem­phis beat San An­to­nio in six games. Game 4 is Sat­ur­day night. Marc Ga­sol and Zach Ran­dolph each scored 21 points for Mem­phis, which outscored San An­to­nio 31-17 in the third quar­ter and led by as much as 22 in the sec­ond half.

Kawhi Leonard, who scored 32 and 37 in the first two games, was held to 18. LaMar­cus Aldridge added 16, and Kyle An­der­son had 15 as Spurs coach Gregg Popovich benched his starters for most of the fourth quar­ter. BUCKS 104, RAP­TORS 77 MIL­WAU­KEE — Khris Mid­dle­ton scored 20 points and Mil­wau­kee over­whelmed cold-shoot­ing Toronto to take a 2-1 lead in their first-round Eastern Con­fer­ence play­off se­ries.

Greg Mon­roe added 16 points and seven re­bounds for the Bucks, who held DeMar DeRozan with­out a bas­ket and never looked back af­ter lead­ing by 20 points af­ter the first quar­ter.

Making this blowout even more im­pres­sive was that they barely needed All-Star Gian­nis An­te­tok­oun­mpo. He fin­ished with 19 points and eight boards.

Game 4 is Sat­ur­day back at the Bradley Cen­ter.

With rau­cous fans wear­ing black Bucks give­away T-shirts to match the play­ers’ uni­forms, Mil­wau­kee put on a dom­i­nat­ing dis­play of bas­ket­ball wor­thy of the team’s “Fear the Deer” slogan.

The Rap­tors looked fraz­zled af­ter shoot­ing 4 of 18 in the first quar­ter. Kyle Lowry had 13 points.

Associated Press

Cleve­land’s LeBron James keeps the ball from In­di­ana’s Paul Ge­orge.

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