If Pacers superstar Paul George was upset with CJ Miles for taking the potential game-winner from him Saturday, you have to wonder how he felt about Lance Stephenson falling into the foil role Cleveland needed to wake up and play inspired ball, leading to a 19-point Cavaliers lead.
The Cavs’ masterful third quarter, in which they outscored the Pacers 33-20, really got going when Stephenson was matched with Kevin Love. Cleveland’s All-Star forward took it to Indiana’s wild card.
The third ended with Kyrie Irving tossing in a 3-pointer over Stephenson and jawing at him to punctuate the play he made before heading back to the Cavs’ bench for the quarter break.
Irving led all scorers with 37 points. Love was right behind him with 27 points on an exceptionally efficient 6-of-7 shooting and 11 rebounds. James was solid despite a game-high eight turnovers, contributing 25 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. James’ teams had previously been 0-3 in the playoffs when he had at least nine turnovers, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
This is the first time that Love, Irving & James have all scored 25 points in the same playoff game. The Cavaliers are now 7-0 when the trio score at least 20 points each in the postseason.
Paul George had 32 points to pace Indiana once again, with 14 coming in a fourth quarter that saw the Pacers outscore the Cavs 33-21 and get as close as a four-point deficit with 19.5 seconds left to play.
The Cavs made their move to take charge earlier than they did in Game 1, using an 11-0 run from the end of the first quarter through the start of the second quarter to seemingly grab control. Cleveland went 5-for-8 during the spurt while Indiana was 0-for-4 with two turnovers.
However, it was the Cavs’ turnovers that allowed the Pacers to stick around, cutting a 13-point Cleveland lead down to five. After coughing it up 11 times in Game 1, leading to 19 points for Indiana, the Cavs had 11 turnovers in the first half Monday and the Pacers scored 14 points off them. James was the biggest culprit, losing the ball six times to mar an otherwise brilliant 17 points on 7-for-10 shooting, five rebounds and five assists in the first half. Overall, Indiana outscored Cleveland 24-17 on points off turnovers.
Iman Shumpert saw his first action of the series starting the second half in place of JR Smith, who left the game at halftime with a left hamstring injury. Shumpert quickly made his presence felt, guarding George on one end and hitting a 3 on another to cap a 7-0 run to start the third quarter that put the Cavs back up by 12.
Later Shumpert poked the ball away from George and dove to the floor for the loose ball, causing a jump ball to be called. Tristan Thompson approached Shumpert to celebrate his defensive gusto while the guard flexed his biceps to the delight of the crowd.
The Cavs’ offense was exemplary, shooting 60.3 percent through three quarters and 55.3 percent for the game. Their defense still has some kinks to work out, as the Pacers shot 51.2 percent overall and 8-for-20 (40.0 percent) from 3.
It’s not like the effort wasn’t there on the defensive end. Twice Love set up to take a charge and appeared to have position — first on George and later on Teague — and both times a blocking foul was called on Love. James was called for a technical foul for expressing his displeasure in the second call that went against Love to the refs.
He eventually got one to go his way, drawing a charge on the 6-foot-9, 285-pound Kevin Seraphin in the third quarter — a third quarter that belonged to Love. He scored 10 in the period, including going right at Stephenson in consecutive sequences when being matched with the 6-5 swingman in the post.
Game 3 is Thursday in Indiana.