The Cleveland Cavaliers have not been the most consistent team in the NBA this season, especially with regard to the stretch run of the campaign. Within the final few weeks, the Cavs imploded in a Sunday afternoon loss to the Atlanta Hawks, and days before, LeBron James and company lost on their home floor to a Hawks team that rested five of its top players.
In short, it would not have been a surprise if the Cavs turned in a sleepy Game 3 performance to allow the Indiana Pacers to stay alive in the first round. For 24 minutes, this looked to be happening.
The Pacers led by a score of 74-49 at the halftime break and Indiana led by as many as 26 points in the first half. Paul George led a dominant second-quarter effort from the home team with 21 points within the 12-minute frame, while Cleveland’s much-maligned defense struggled mightily to mount any level of resistance. In fact, Indiana’s offensive rating hovered around a staggering 145 (!), so the jokes were flying about the Eastern Conference favorites and their inactivity on that end of the floor.
However, something happened during the halftime break and things flipped in the second half to the tune of a 26-point comeback by Cleveland that matched the NBA Playoff record.
After the half, the Cavs came alive on both ends which, predictably, meant a dominant effort from James himself. Following a solid but unspectacular (by his standards) 13-point, 7-rebound, 6-assist half, LeBron took over to the tune of 28 points, six rebounds and seven assists in the third and fourth quarters. He ended the night with 41 points on 14-for-27 shooting (6-for-12 from three), 13 rebounds, and 12 assists.
He was, quite easily, the best player on the court and shots began to fall from everyone around him. The Cavs buried 12 threes in the second half while simultaneously improving on defense, while the Pacers looked to have no answers once it became quite clear that Cleveland would try to effectively bury them for good. Interestingly enough, this happened while Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love watched on the sidelines, as Cleveland closed out the game with LeBron surrounded by Kyle Korver, Deron Williams, Channing Frye, and J.R. Smith.