Leading by 25 points at halftime, it appeared the Indiana Pacers were going to keep hammering away and beat Cleveland for the first time in the 2017 NBA playoffs.
Unfortunately for the Pacers and 17,923 fans in Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the third quarter began.
And LeBron James became vintage LeBron James at his best.
James scored 13 points in the third stanza and found open teammates for crucial 3-pointers to help Cleveland outscore Indiana 14-0 during a near 10-minute stretch, with the Cavs going on to win, 119-114, and take a 3-0 lead in the best-of-7 series.
Cleveland’s win is the largest second-half comeback in playoff history, and the third largest overall comeback in postseason play.
James finished with 41 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists, his 17th career triple-double in the playoffs.
Paul George topped the Pacers with 36 points — 23 in the first half — 15 rebounds and 9 assists. Jeff Teague added 15 points and 7 assists.
“We knew we had to take some punches, but it was a flurry — more than we expected,” James said afterwards. “At halftime, I was just looking at the guys and telling them, ‘let’s get a couple stops.'”
“I thought we slowed the pace down and slowed the game down,” said George. “It gives a team momentum and they took advantage in the second half.”
“I didn’t think we established that killer instinct of keeping the pressure on them offensively,” said Pacers coach Nate McMillan.
Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, J.R. Smith and Channing Frye each scored 13 points for Cleveland with Kyle Korver adding 12. Love and Irving did not play in the fourth quarter.
“The bench definitely gets the game ball tonight. Channing, Shump (Iman Shumpert), D-Will (Deron Williams) and Kyle came in and gave us huge minutes,” James said. “We were on-point defensively and we knew exactly where we wanted to get to offensively.”
Lance Stephenson scored 13 points and grabbed 6 rebounds for the Pacers. Thaddeus Young and Kevin Seraphin scored 11 points apiece and Young snagged 14 boards.
Game 4 at The Fieldhouse is 1 p.m. Sunday. It will be broadcast on ABC TV.
Notes: James passed former Lakers’ star Kobe Bryant to take third place on the NBA’s all-time playoff scoring list. James has 5,669 points, Bryant finished with 5,640. … Michael Jordan (5,987) and Kareem Abdul-Jabaar (5,762) top the playoff scoring list. … Indiana has lost 6 straight games to the Cavs. … Cleveland has won 20 straight first-round playoff games. … The Pacers have never been swept in a 7-game series.
(Statistics via Basketball.Reference.com)
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