LeBron James was masterful with 45 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. He is now 13-0 for his career in first round series.
Just before the game began, Tyronn Lue made it clear with another lineup change that he was either moving on or going down with the guys he has trusted over the last couple of seasons and through the team’s 2016 championship run. Tristan Thompson was reinserted into the first unit joining LeBron James, Kevin Love, J.R. Smith and Kyle Korver.
The lineup change paid off, as Thompson went for a double-double of 15 points on 5-of-6 shooting and 10 rebounds. Also scoring in double-digits for the Cavs were Love with 14 points, and both Smith and George Hill with 11.
The game started out pretty ugly for both teams offensively, but the Cavs eventually got into a little bit of a groove to go up 9-2. Over the last three minutes of the first quarter, the Cavs outscored Indiana 12-4 with James putting up nine of those points to give the Cavs a 31-19 lead.
The Pacers returned the favor in the second quarter, rattling off 10 unanswered points beginning at the 9:00 minute mark to pull within four, 35-31. James continued to stay in the zone, however, rattling off nine more points to give the Cavs a 54-43 lead heading into the break.
The first half was all James, as he went for 26 points on 11-of-16 shooting from the field to go along with five assists and four rebounds. The lineup change also paid off dividends in the first half, as Thompson went for 10 points and 10 rebounds in his first meaningful time this series. He also was a crucial element of setting James up for success with screens, and clogged up the paint on defense.
The lead was short-lived and the Cavs returned to their typical third quarter form. Indiana opened the half on a 16-4 run to take their first lead of the game at the 7:13 mark on a Bojan Bogdanovic three-pointer, 59-58. The Cavs struggled in transition, giving up eight fast break points in large part because of their seven turnovers in the frame.
It also certainly didn’t help that Victor Oladipo came to life, scoring 14 points in the third quarter to lead Indiana. As the two teams traded baskets in the closing minutes of the quarter, the Cavs managed to hang on to a 76-74 lead heading into the final 12 minutes.
The Cavs started the fourth quarter without James, who began to get cramps in both of his legs. By the time he checked back in with 8:25 to go, the Cavs had grown their lead, 86-79 as Love began to find some offensive life. He scored eight points in the final frame.
Indiana and Cleveland continued trading baskets for the fourth quarter, and as Indiana pulled within four points with under a minute to go on a Victor Oladipo layup, it’s only fitting that James would extend that lead out to six with a layup of his own and then out to seven with a free throw to effectively ice the game and force the Pacers to keep fouling.
Indiana was led by Oladipo, who dropped 30 points and pulled down 12 boards.
Up Next: With the win, the Cavaliers advance to the second round to take on the Toronto Raptors. The first game in that series is scheduled for Tuesday night at 8 p.m. in Toronto.