For one half, the Cleveland Cavaliers looked like they were well on their way to a 2-1 series lead.
Then seemingly out of nowhere the Indiana Pacers, with the help of Bojan Bogdanovic, came roaring back.
However, Cleveland started the game with nice offensive balance. George Hill scored nine early points, Kevin Love added six points and LeBron only needed to score eight points in the opening 12 minutes.
But what really got the Cavaliers going was another strong defensive performance. Cleveland doubled Victor Oladipo often and forced Indiana to perform outside of their comfort zone.
As the first half pushed on Cleveland’s ball movement got better and their confidence seemed to grow. In addition to that the Cavaliers shooting finally showed up. They shot 50 percent from three-point range and 53.8% (21-39) from the field overall.
But then in the blink of an eye that 17-point lead disappeared.
Right from the start of the 2nd half it was apparent the Pacers were not going anywhere. While Oladipo was bottled up for most of the game, Bogdanovic scored 30 points (15 in the 4th quarter) to help spark the Pacers.
Meanwhile Cleveland reverted back to the go-to offense when things get tough. Giving the ball to LeBron and standing around. Baffling is the perfect way to describe what the Cavaliers offense looked like the final 24 minutes.
This stand around and watch offense scored only 12 points in the 3rd quarter, and 21 points in the 4th quarter. No one besides LeBron scored more than 3 points in the final 12 minutes.
In addition to that, no Cavalier other than James scored a point from 9:17 left in the 4th until to 7.6 left in the game.
Indiana did play solid defense, but Cleveland more took themselves out of the game with their lack of offensive flow. Tyronn Lue does not deserve blame for what took place last night, that rests with the players, who suddenly forgot how to run the offense.
Who would have thought the Cavaliers defense would be the one carrying the load in the playoffs? 90 points per game through the first three games will not get it done. Shooting barely 30 percent from beyond the arc will not get it done.
What appears to have happened is the Cavaliers younger players do not trust their shot in pressure-packed situations. They look skittish and are all too content to quickly dish the ball to James.
Now the Cavaliers find themselves in a tough situation. They are down 2-1 with Game 4 tomorrow night. Needless to say it is a must-win situation. Falling into a 3-1 hole in the first round seemed impossible just a week ago, but it is now on the verge of actually happening.
LeBron will need to channel all of his energy to lead the Cavaliers in Game 4. The King will have to take it upon himself to ensure this series goes back to Cleveland tied 2-2.
If this is truly the beginning of the end, it is time to brace for the potential downfall of the Cavaliers as we know them. There still is a series to be played and with LeBron at the helm anything is possible, but this year just is not the same.
For now the Cavaliers need to dig deep and find some confidence, practice their 3’s and enjoy the moment while they can because it may be coming to an end.