The Cleveland Cavaliers completed a comeback win for the ages against the Indiana Pacers in Game 3 of the opening round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse Thursday night.
Down by 25 at halftime and double digits for much of the third quarter, the Cavaliers outscored the Pacers by 30 points in the second half and rode that momentum to a 119-114 victory and a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
After equaling the largest comeback in NBA postseason history, the Cavaliers will have a chance to close out the sweep of the Pacers on Sunday afternoon.
Cleveland Cavaliers battle Indiana Pacers in Game 3 of opening round of NBA Playoffs
With a triple-double and his 18th 30-point postseason game since returning to the Cavaliers three years ago, small forward LeBron James was the catalyst on both ends of the floor, scoring 41 points to go along with 13 rebounds, 12 assists, one steal and two blocked shots.
With point guard Kyrie Irving and power forward Kevin Love limited to 28 and 27 minutes respectively and 13 points each, James and the Cavaliers fought their way to the victory because of the three-point shooting of James, guard J.R. Smith and several reserves.
Smith, power forward Channing Frye and shooting guard Kyle Korver combined to knock down 10 three-point shots in the game. Smith and Korver had four each from long distance and Frye buried two of his own, including one late in the fourth quarter.
Smith scored 13 points, to go along with 13 from Frye and 12 from Korver.
The Pacers put on a show for the home fans at the start of Game 3 by breaking down the Cavaliers’ defense early and often on the way to a 37-27 lead after the first quarter.
Reserve forward Kevin Seraphin started strong for the Pacers, tallying nine points, while starting power forward Thaddeus Young added seven over the first 12 minutes of play. The balanced attack worked well, as in addition to Seraphin and Young, the Pacers got five points each from Lance Stephenson and Glenn Robinson III off the bench.
As a team, the Pacers went 14 of 21 from the field, including a four-for-six showing from three-point range, in the first quarter.
Conversely, the Cavaliers were 10 of 25 from the floor despite knocking down five of their 12 looks from beyond the three-point arc. Irving led the way with seven points, while Love and James added five each.
With George emerging on the offensive end of the floor and momentum on their side, the Pacers cruised to a 74-49 lead over the Cavaliers at halftime of Game 3.
After scoring just two points in the first quarter, George tallied 21 in the second period in helping the Pacers take a 25-point advantage over the second-seeded Cavaliers.
In the first half, George knocked down six of his 13 looks at the basket and three of his eight three-point attempts, but even more importantly, he continued to attack the hoop despite constant contact from the Cavaliers. That contact led to four trips to the free-throw line, where George knocked down all eight of his attempts.
The Cavaliers gave up 37 points in each of the first two quarters, and the 74 first-half points the Pacers put up were the most ever against a Cleveland team in the postseason.
Although the Cavaliers struggled through the first half of play in Game 3, they utilized effective play on both ends of the floor to cut the Pacers’ lead to seven points, 91-84, heading into the fourth quarter.
Down by 25 points coming out of the halftime break, the Cavaliers outpaced Indiana, 35-17, in the third quarter.
Defensively, the Cavaliers held Pacers George scoreless throughout the third quarter.
ANALYSIS: Jim Donovan and Dave "Dino" DeNatale react to the Cavaliers' monumental comeback in a special WKYC Facebook Live. Watch below: