It seemed like deja vu all over again.
The Cleveland Cavaliers were up double digits on the Indiana Pacers at halftime and then proceeded to give it all back up.
LeBron James again set the tone early on and there was finally a J.R. Smith sighting in this series. Smith cashed in on three shots from beyond the arc, including a 70-foot heave that went in at the first quarter buzzer.
Meanwhile Kevin Love was a no-show in the opening period. His play was limited to just over two minutes as Kevin was whistled for two early fouls. But between LeBron’s 11 points, J.R’s hot start and contributions from the bench, Cleveland found themselves up 30-24 at the end of one quarter.
As has been the case all series long, the Cavaliers defense led the charge in the opening frame. Bojan Bogdanovic (who scored 30 points in Game 3) recorded just two points and was 1-6 from the floor in the opening half. Oladipo was the only player to get into a rhythm, scoring seven first quarter points.
Cleveland built off of their impressive first quarter and pushed their advantage to 16 points at one point. Jordan Clarkson poured in points and James added 12 points in the second quarter. With Cleveland once again moving the ball well, all looked good for the wine and gold heading into the half.
Love’s two early fouls played a large role in this game, as he scored zero points and grabbed only one rebound in the first half. Clarkson and J.R’s contributions in the first 24 minutes helped nullify a forgettable half for Kevin.
As for the Pacers, Myles Turner was the role player stepping up. His 10 points on 5-6 from the floor were a nice compliment to Oladipo’s 12 points in the first half.
But just as Game 3 unfolded, Indiana came roaring back. Bojan scored eight points, Domantas Sabonis showed up for the first time all series and Turner continued to be a force inside.
The Cavaliers took the Pacers best punch, and countered with a Kyle Korver/Love combo to hold onto a slim two point lead heading into the fourth quarter. James was held to a single point in the third quarter, so those contributions from the other Cavaliers were what kept them afloat.
Those constant double teams on Oldaipo seemed to finally start paying off throughout the third, as he went 0-5.
With the lead switching back and forth in the final quarter, the Cavaliers looked on the verge of collapsing yet again. But two clutch three point shots from Korver and timely layups from LeBron had the Cavaliers up three points late in the game.
That’s when Lance Stephenson stole a move from professional wrestling superstar Chris Jericho and gave a codebreaker to Jeff Green. At this point Lance is becoming more of a one-man show than a basketball player.
— John Stursa (@CLEVELANDmusic) April 23, 2018
Stephenson is a pest and only cares about throwing the Cavaliers off their game. But enough is enough. Stephenson has no interest in basketball at this point, he has more tackles this series than points. Maybe the Indianapolis Colts should try him out as a free safety. If the NBA does not police this situation, it is going to get out of hand.
But back to the game.
Korver’s 16 points in the second half honestly saved the Cavaliers season. His early struggles were concerning, but he showed down the stretch why he deserves to be on the floor. After his two made three pointers, LeBron was able to get free for an easy hoop because Indiana was scrambling around trying to find Korver.
That is what Kyle brings to this team. If he can hit three point shots, that forces Pacer players to stay on the perimeter. This then would give James an easier time at driving down the lane and scoring near the rim.
James played well (32 points, 13 rebounds, 7 assists) as usual, but what propelled Cleveland last night were the role players. Between Clarkson, Korver, Smith and even Larry Nance Jr all stepping up, they were able to get a much-needed 104-100 victory.
Now the scene shifts back to Cleveland for Game 5. At this point it is hard to tell who has the edge in this series moving forward. The Cavaliers have home court back in their favor, and will need a good start early on to get the home fans rocking.
The Cavaliers defense needs to continue their stellar performance. Their 96.8 points allowed through four games is nearly 13 points better than what Cleveland allowed in the regular season.
As for the offense, their 12 three-pointers made were the most this series. Same with their 104 points in Game 4, the most scored this round.
With their offense slowly coming back to form and their defense still holding the fort down, Cleveland may be on the verge of a breakthrough. With another great LeBron performance and the role players stepping up, Cleveland may find themselves on the verge of getting past the Indiana Pacers.
We shall see come Wednesday night.