NBA Playoffs 2018: Indiana Pacers vs Cleveland Cavaliers Game 3 - Match Preview
After making it a point to get his teammates involved first offensively and not taking a shot until after ten minutes had elapsed in Cleveland’s 98-80 loss Sunday to open this best-of-seven series, Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue implored superstar LeBron James to be aggressive scoring from the jump in Game 2.
James heeded his coach’s call, scoring the first 13 points of the game and outscoring the Pacers 20-18 alone in the first quarter.
He scored a club playoff-record 29 in the first half and finished with 46 points, 12 rebounds and five assists as Cleveland knotted the series at one game and held off Indiana 100-97 on Wednesday night.
Lue made two changes to his starting lineup from Game 1, replacing Rodney Hood and Jeff Green with J. R. Smith and Kyle Korver.
The latter scored all 12 of his points from three-point range, and while Smith finished with only five points, he had a huge steal and layup off Victor Oladipo that gave the Cavaliers a seven-point lead with 2:59 to play.
Oladipo finished with 22 points and six assists, but foul trouble limited him to eight minutes in the first half and 28 for the game.
He also missed a wide-open, potential game-tying three-pointer in the final minute. The Pacers shot 52.6 percent overall but were just six for 22 from three-point range, and their 17 turnovers resulted in 18 points for the Cavaliers.
Cavaliers center Kevin Love, who had 15 points and eight rebounds, is expected to play after jamming his left thumb and sitting out the final 3:43. Love missed 20 games in the regular season.
Three keys to the game
James needs help - While counting on James to steal one win in a series like he did Wednesday night or maybe even a second in this one is reasonable, his starting teammates must contribute if the Cavaliers are to advance to the next round.
In the first two games, Cleveland's other four starters have shot a combined 23 for 62 (37.1 percent), including 12 of 33 from three-point range (36.4). James himself has outscored his fellow Cavs starters 70-63 and has more field goals (24).
Turner contributing offensively for Pacers - Despite settling for the split in Cleveland, the Pacers have to feel good about the scoring Myles Turner is providing.
After entering the postseason in a funk in which he averaged 7.3 points on 32.9 percent shooting, Turner has largely taken advantage of Cleveland's "blitzing" of the dribbler in the pick-and-roll to total 34 points on 13-of-21 shooting and has even made a pair of three-pointers in three attempts.
Your reminder LeBron James is really good at PLAYOFF basketball - James now has 20 40-point games in the playoffs, tying him with "The Logo" Jerry West for second on the all-time list and behind only Michael Jordan, and 99 30-point games in his storied career.
It was also his tenth career playoff game with at least 40 points, ten rebounds and five assists. Elgin Baylor is second on that list with five while Jordan and Shaquille O'Neal each accomplished the feat four times.
Matchup to watch
F LeBron James vs Fs Thaddeus Young and Bojan Bogdanovic - Lue's decision to go smaller with his starting five and use Korver and Smith means Pacers power forward Thaddeus Young does not have a traditional four to match up against defensively.
He cannot chase Korver through all those screens on the perimeter, and James does not facilitate Cleveland's offence in the low post.
The result was a mismatch in James' favour throughout the first half. Small forward Bojan Bogdanovic guarded him for much of the fourth quarter, but James also made mincemeat out of him by scoring 11 of his 46 points in the final 8:50, highlighted by that one jab-step and jumper over him with the shot clock winding down that gave Cleveland an eight-point lead with 4:33 to play.
Cleveland Cavaliers probable starters
PG - George Hill
SG - J. R. Smith
C - Kevin Love
SF - Kyle Korver
PF - LeBron James
Indiana Pacers probable starters
PG - Darren Collison
SG - Victor Oladipo
C - Myles Turner
SF - Bojan Bogdanovic
PF - Thaddeus Young
Indiana Pacers vs Cleveland Cavaliers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse
Date and time: ET - 20 April 2018, 7:00 PM; IST - 21 April 2018, 4:30 AM