Victor Oladipo and the Indians Pacers stunned the offenseless Cleveland Cavaliers with a 98-80 win to provide Indiana with a 1-0 lead in the opening round of the NBA playoffs. Sunday’s opening round loss against the Pacers is the first time since April 22, 2010 the Cavaliers have lost in the first round dating back to when the Bulls beat the Cavs in Chicago. This is also the first time the Cavs have lost Game 1 in the first round since 1998, also against the Pacers. The miserable loss made history for LeBron James as well, not all happy history either. For the first time in James’ career he has lost the opening game in the playoffs. His streak of 21 straight first-round playoff wins has come to an abrupt (and somewhat unexpected) end.
It was all Pacers early on as Indiana started the game on a blazing 20-6 run, in due part to the wine and gold not being able to find any rhythm offensively, and struggled to hit shots. James did not record a point until making a free throw with 1:52 remaining in the first quarter, as he did his best to get his teammates going on the offensive end. He also didn’t record his first shot until there was about two minutes remaining in the opening quarter.
Larry Nance Jr. (six points), Rodney Hood (two ), George Hill (two), and Jordan Clarkson (two) were the only Cavs to add to the scoreboard in the first quarter besides James (two points). They shot just 25 percent as a team from the field in the opening quarter.
Cleveland began the second quarter on a 7-0 run, led by Kevin Love, who hit his second three-pointer of the evening during the quick run. James did not record his first field goal until 52 seconds into the second quarter, as the Cavs outscored the Pacers 24-22 to cut the deficit to 17 points at the break. No. 23 scored 12 of Cleveland’s 24 points in the second quarter as he tried to keep the wine and gold in the game before the start of the second half.
Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue battled lineup switches and substitutions the entire night, but he did stick to his plan of playing ten players in the rotation during meaningful minutes. Lue called a timeout with less than a minute into the third quarter as Myles Turner and Oladipo scored back-to-back baskets.
With 1:06 remaining in the third quarter the Cavaliers came closest to obtaining the lead for the first time of the contest, cutting the Pacers lead to seven points. The Cavs did not lead for one second the entire game and the last time Indiana did not lead was with 8:36 remaining in the first quarter.
In the final quarter, the Pacers sucked the life out of an already lifeless Cavs team, outscoring Cleveland, 25-15, to edge the series lead at 1-0.
Oladipo led all scorers with 32 points, adding six rebounds as well in his starring performance. Expected to be named the Most Improved Player in the NBA, he showed his athleticism and ability to dominate on both ends of the floor throughout Sunday’s game.
James had his 98th career double-double, and 20th career double as the four time MVP finished the day leading the Cavs in points (24) and assists (12). He also added ten rebounds to complete the second most triple-doubles in NBA history, behind only Magic Johnson (32).
With his seventh field goal of the night James passed Michael Jordan for the most postseason field goals in league history, and now resides in second place with 2,189 scores in the playoffs.
Kevin Love was one point (9) away from a double-double, but with his 17 rebounds he passed Anderson Varejao (405) for the most rebounds in Cavaliers postseason history. Love now sits in fifth place in the franchise.
JR Smith (15 points) and Larry Nance (10 points and five rebounds) provided their best arguments for replacing Rodney Hood (nine points) and Jeff Green (zero points) in the starting lineup. Green’s minus-15 in his 27 minutes was the worst on the team, as he contributed nearly nothing in the humiliating Game 1 loss.
*Stats provided by official Cavaliers game notes.