LeBron, Cavs Earn Crucial Game 2 Victory Over Pacers to Tie Series

Not wanting to fall into an 0-2 hole heading back to Indiana, the Cleveland Cavaliers picked up a vital win over the Pacers Wednesday evening.

Updated: April 18, 2018 • 10:50 PM ET

LeBron James displayed a masterful performance in Game 2 against the Pacers.

CLEVELAND — After producing a very lethargic performance in Game 1, nobody truly knew how the Cleveland Cavaliers would look in Game 2 of their opening round NBA Playoffs series against the Indiana Pacers. Before Wednesday night’s Game 2, Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue wouldn’t reveal if he had made any changes to his starting lineup, only adding to the mystery that filled the Quicken Loans Arena air.


“In the playoffs, you’re trying to win a championship,” Lue said before the game. “That’s your main focus…Being strategic in the playoffs, if you tell your lineup, they can see what matchups they want to do, who’s going to guard who, what action to guard, how you want to guard it.”


Lue had good reason to be slightly secretive. The Pacers hammered the Cavs by 18 points in Cleveland’s own building in Game 1, and the Cavs would be in an extremely desperate spot if they had to head back to Indiana trailing 0-2 in the series. Some of the mystery lifted during player introductions when the Cavs finally revealed their Game 2 starting lineup.


Lue made two changes, inserting J.R. Smith and Kyle Korver for Rodney Hood and Jeff Green to join LeBron James, Kevin Love and George Hill. But what Lue was most vocal about leading up to the series’ second game was that James had to be more aggressive at the start of Game 2. James obliged on Wednesday, scoring 20 points in the first quarter that helped Cleveland secure the momentum needed to play their way to a 100-97 victory and tie the series 1-1.


“I think he did a great job just being aggressive, attacking the basket early, setting the tone for our team,” Lue said. “Defensively, I thought we were good again tonight, only giving up six threes…Two games in a row, they haven’t scored 100 points.”


One game after posting his 20th career playoff triple-double in the Game 1 loss, James produced his 20th 40-point postseason game, totaling 46 points, 12 rebounds and five assists in Game 2. He was on fire early, scoring the Cavs’ first 16 points of the game on 7-of-8 shooting from the field, helping Cleveland take a 16-1 lead. Meanwhile, the Pacers struggled to score in the first quarter, largely due to star player Victor Oladipo picking up two fouls less than two minutes into the game. The foul trouble forced Oladipo to leave the game sooner than anticipated, and the Cavs pushed ahead to take a 33-18 lead when the quarter ended.


James produced the start Lue was looking for, totaling 20 points, six rebounds and three assists in the first quarter alone. The Cavs led by as many as 18 points in the first quarter, but never led by that many points again, as Indiana chipped-away throughout the night. At halftime, Indiana trailed 58-46, but by the time the third quarter ended, the Pacers were back within single digits, trailing 74-67 heading into the fourth.


If Cavs supporters’ palms weren’t sweaty already, they certainly were when Pacers guard Darren Collison drained his second straight three-pointer that brought Indiana within a 95-92 deficit with 51 seconds to play. After a George Hill turnover on the ensuing possession, Indiana had the ball with 36 seconds remaining and chance to tie the game. However, Oladipo (22 points) missed a potential game-tying trey, James secured the rebound and converted four free throws in the final seconds to ice the game.


“I didn’t come into the game saying I wanted to be assertive, coach Lue said it,” James said. “I said I’m going to play my game, and I did that tonight.”


If not for James’ heroic performance, the Cavs would probably find themselves eyeing a potential sweep in the first round. Love (15 points, eight rebounds) and Korver (12 points) were the only other Cavaliers that reached double-figures in scoring on Wednesday.


“I need to see more out of a lot of guys,” Lue succinctly said.


As James’ teammates haven’t necessarily picked up the slack in the first two games, it’s beginning to look like he’ll have to be superhuman, once again, if the Cavs have any hopes of getting out of the first round. Neither James, nor Lue, were discouraged after the Game 1 loss.


“You never want to lose, but the goal is to win four games,” Lue said. “No matter if you win 4-3, 4-0, however, you just gotta win four games. You don’t get any prize for sweeping the first round or winning 4-0.”


Game 3 will take place on Friday in Indiana.

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