Most teams who are down by 25 in a road playoff game, will probably find it very hard to come back from. For LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, their championship pedigree shined through as they became one of the few that could pull it off.
Up 2-0 on the Indiana Pacers, the Cavs had no reason to relax. Although they won the first two games, they were tightly contested affairs that the Pacers could have (maybe should have) at least split with game one slipping from their grasp after a terrible last possession.
Heading into Game 3, the Pacers, like many teams playing at home, had a slight advantage. Now, this isn’t just because they were home and the crowd would be on their side, but they also know that this series should not have been 2-0 against their favor. They played hand in hand with the defending champs the first two games, so Game 3 was supposed to be their breakout game.
For much of the first half and halfway through the third quarter, it was. From the jump, the Pacers had more energy, more fight and they were clicking on offense and defense. They had ridden this wave to a peak 25 point lead at one point in the first half and up by as many as 20 points in the third.
The turning point in the game, and maybe the Cavaliers season, was just under midway through the third quarter when the score was 87-67. Kyrie Irving exited the game and Deron Williams entered, but instead of Williams taking the role of point guard, LeBron took the reigns and led one of the biggest comebacks in playoff history.
The first possession after the substitution, James brought the ball down along the left side of the floor and whips a pass to Williams in the corner, fresh off the bench, and he nailed a 3 to bring the lead down to 17. This would lead to a 10-0 Cavs run. This type of quick scoring would be prevalent in a run that by the end of the third quarter, would have the Cavs only down by 7.
The highlights of the comeback came during two consecutive possessions where James, in the midst of the furious comeback had casually pulled up from three both times and drained them after coming off a high screen and roll and dribbling to his left. The first three was marked with a smile towards the Indiana fans while the second was more vocal with James screaming “woooo” while trotting back down the floor, clearly sensing what the Cavs were doing and how draining it was becoming for the Pacers.
The Cavs would win the third quarter 35-17 and would again dominate in the fourth quarter 35-23, securing the comeback by defeating the Pacers 119-114.
After it was all said and done, LeBron finished the game with 41 points, 13 rebounds, and 12 assists and completely took over the game while also leading his team to become the first in playoff history to overcome a 25 point halftime deficit.
While the Cavs have been struggling to find their zone the past month and even through the first two games of these playoffs, this comeback proved why they are the defending champs and why LeBron has been given a pass for the late regular season struggles. When it’s time to step up, he tends to do so and the team follows suit. When they needed to, they not only stepped up offensively, but they tightened up defensively, securing defensive rebounds, causing the Pacers to take shots deep in the possession and closing out on shooters with the intensity of a Finals series.
Now up 3-0, this isn’t new for the Cavs who haven’t lost a first-round game in two years. However, it’s a regaining of the feeling that they can put everything together, something they desperately needed.
Looking back, this could be the type of thing that sparks a championship run.
Did you expect the Cavs to come back to win Game 3? Let’s talk about it here or find me on Twitter @Phenombc3.