LeBron James’ Heroics Saves Cleveland Cavaliers, Again, in Game 5
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James did everything imaginable to pull out a victory over the Indiana Pacers in Game 5 of their opening round series.
Updated: April 25, 2018 • 11:15 PM ET
LeBron James produced another epic performance in Game 5 against Indiana.
CLEVELAND — LeBron James.
That’s all that needs to be said after the performance the world’s best basketball player put forth in Game 5 of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ opening round playoff series against the Indiana Pacers. Not only did James post 44 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists Wednesday night, he splashed a game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer to give Cleveland a 98-95 victory and 3-2 series lead.
“I trust what I’ve always worked on,” James said. “As a kid, you always have those 3, 2, 1 moments when you a kid and being able to have one of those moments, that’s what it kind of felt like. It felt like I was a kid all over again just playing basketball at my house.”
The night might have gone drastically different for the Cavs and the faithful in Quicken Loans Arena if James had missed the buzzer-beater. The game sat tied at 95 with three seconds left, and the Cavs had the ball to inbound. Cleveland forward Jeff Green inbounded the ball to James, who dribbled to his left and pulled up at the top of the arc for the game-winner. Had James missed the shot, the contest would have headed to overtime, where the Pacers could have escaped Cleveland with a win.
“As soon as it left his hand, it looked perfect, like on target and it looked good,” Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue said. “Another big shot he made for us, so we needed that.”
James was magnificent throughout the evening, and Cleveland needed each of his 44 points to triumph. Kyle Korver chipped-in 19 points and six rebounds, but no other Cavaliers were overly impressive. Kevin Love totaled 11 points and 10 rebounds, possibly still affected by a hand injury suffered earlier in the series, but no other Cavalier reached double-figures in scoring.
It wasn’t just James’ scoring that Cleveland needed to secure the victory. To get the ball for the game-winning shot, James blocked a Victor Oladipo layup attempt with three seconds to play that seemed eerily reminiscent of the swat James placed on Andre Iguodala in the 2016 NBA Finals that helped the Cavs win their first-ever championship. This time, however, replays showed that James should have been called for goaltending. Nonetheless, James’ three-pointer would have still won the game.
“LeBron has been pretty much directing their defense,” Pacers head coach Nate McMillan said. “In that situation, Victor out there spread, we’re going to take our chances with that matchup.”
It didn’t work out for Indiana, as the Cavs now need just one more victory to win the series, which they’ll attempt to get on Friday in Indiana. If not for James’ heroics throughout the entire series, the Cavs might have gone home already.
“If we get the ball to him, you know he’s capable of delivering,” Lue said. “Jeff got it in to him, ‘Bron got to his sweet spot and knocked the open shot. I thought it was a big team win.”
James and his Cavs have yet to allow the Pacers to score 100 points in the series. For Indiana to escape this series and head to the second round, the Pacers may need to try throwing a different defense at James.
“You can run double teams at him to try to get the ball out of his hands,” McMilland said. “He’s an excellent passer, he’s a willing passer. With the shooters on the floor, he basically picks you apart when you play that type of defense.
“I think the thing you try to do is just keep him in front and make him make shots. He’s very capable of doing that…He made a hell of a shot again tonight.”
While James’ “block” on Oladipo seemed similar to the block on Iguodala, his game-winner was also eerily similar to the game-winning three-pointer he sank against the Orlando Magic in the 2009 Eastern Conference NBA Finals.
“It didn’t remind me until a lot of the people in the locker room, who was around at that time, kind of brought that up,” James said. “It has some similarities.”
The Cavs certainly needed James heroics so that they didn’t have to head back to Indiana in a huge hole.
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