In the first half, the Cavaliers played solid basketball on both ends. They had balanced scoring, and did a good job with blitzing on the defensive end. In the second half, however, calling the Cavs sluggish would be a generous description.
Cleveland scored just 33 points in the second half, and only 12 in the third quarter. Heading into the final frame, their lead was down to just six points as Victor Oladipo started to find his rhythm and the Cavs were unable to counter Bojan Bogdanovic.
In the first quarter, four out of the Cavs’ five starters were on the board, giving them a balanced offensive attack. In the second quarter, the Cavs continued that strategy and were led by Love, who hit two three-pointers en route to 10 points. Cleveland shot 21-of-39 from the field in the first half to build that 57-40 lead going into the break.
All throughout the first half, the Cavs’ defensive rotations were sharp, which effectively turned Oladipo into a passer with just five points. Bogdanovic ran into some early foul trouble, but still had some semblance of rhythm with 11 points.
For as good as the Cavs looked in the first half, however, they looked that bad in the second. In the third quarter they were outscored 23-12 and shot just 5-of-19 from the field and 1-of-10 from deep. The help defense grew lax and they allowed Oladipo to get back into the game as he put up nine points and Bojan Bogdanovic continued to do damage.
The Cavs’ 17-point halftime lead officially disappeared as Oladipo hit two free throws with 8:38 to go to tie the game at 75. The Pacers would go up for good as Bogdanovic nailed an and-one three to give them an 81-77 lead. Bogdanovic poured in 15 points in the frame, including four three-pointers.
It also didn’t help Cleveland that they couldn’t buy a basket. From 2:50-1:16 the Cavs missed four straight three-pointers. LeBron James connected on three over the final four and a half minutes, however, to give the Cavs a fighting chance. With 7.6 seconds remaining, Love got an offensive board and nailed an off-balance baseline three-pointer to narrow Indiana’s lead to just one point, 91-90.
The Cavs quickly fouled Darren Collison on the inbound, who made the first free throw but missed the second. The Cavs were out of timeouts, and with just four seconds remaining, all J.R. Smith could manage was a desperation three attempt.
Bogdanovic led all scorers with 30 points. James led the Cavs with 28 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists. Love had 19 and George Hill had 13.
Game 3 is the first time this year the Cavaliers have lost after leading heading into the fourth quarter.
Up next: Game 4 of Cavs-Pacers is on Sunday in Indiana. Tipoff is at 8:30 p.m.