After dominating the Indiana Pacers for the entire first half, the Cleveland Cavaliers reverted back to their ways from Games 1 and 2. Up 17 points at halftime, an ice cold final 24 minutes saw the Cavs score just 33 second-half points with the result being a 92-90 loss and Cleveland falling 2-1 in the first round series.
“I thought their physicality… I thought it just hurt us,” Cavs coach Ty Lue said following the game. “Ten turnovers in the second half cost us. But we have to be better in the third quarter. They were tougher than us in the second half.”
The ingredients for a big win were there. Victor Oladipo struggled from the floor, hitting just five shots. The Pacers as a whole hit just eight threes on the night, once again failing to hit the 100-point mark. The comeback, however, was spurred by reserve forward Bojan Bogdanovic who scored 15 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter. Bogdanovic was 11-of-15 from the floor (7-of-9 from three-point range), and one of those super deep three-pointers at the buzzer where all you could do was throw your hands in the air in exasperation.
Cleveland was once again led by LeBron James with 28 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists. Kevin Love led the Cavaliers in scoring through the first half, dropping 16 points and looking like the No. 2 option Cleveland had desperately been lacking through the first two games of the series, but finished with just 19 courtesy of a late-game three from the corner. Kyle Korver, Jordan Clarkson, and JR Smith combined to go 4-of-18 from the floor. Korver followed up a solid Game 2 with goose egg; Clarkson continues to look lost offensively; and Smith ended the game with this shot, the Cavs needing just two points to send the game to overtime.
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 21, 2018
“We’ve had good quarters and not-so-good quarters,” James said. “We had a great game plan, and tried to execute over 48 minutes, but we weren’t able to do that.”
Until proven otherwise, the story of this series will be about the lack of help James has received. A triple-double in Game 1 was not enough to get the win. A near-50-point outing in Game 2 allowed the Cavs to hold off a surging Pacers team in front of the home crowd. A near triple-double in Game 3 was not enough to protect a 17-point halftime lead, all while the Pacers were saved by a role player of their own.
James was asked multiple times following the game about help and role players, but he shrugged off both attempts.
“What are you guys looking for? You think I’m going to throw my teammates under the bus?,” James asked rhetorically.
— NBA TV (@NBATV) April 21, 2018
While another 30-point outing from Bojan Bogdanovic is unlikely, a game where the rest of the Pacers only make one three-point field goal is more so. Victor Oladipo will be better. Myles Turner will be better.
“I’m confident, and so are the guys in the locker room,” said Lue of the future of the series. “Being up 17, you can’t let this happen. We have to be better… We’ll be ready to go for Game 4.”
$2,500: The cost of the Thom Browne suits LeBron James reportedly purchased for his teammates. The entire team wore their freshly tailored gear to Bankers Fieldhouse before the contest.
All business for the Cavs in Indy 👀 pic.twitter.com/HYVktbe3oq
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 20, 2018
54: The field goal percentage of the Cavaliers in the first half. George Hill easily had his best half of the postseason, scoring 11 against his old team. Hill’s back locked up midway through the second half, and he finished with just 13.
34: The field goal percentage of the Cavs in the second half. A stagnant offense with little ball movement saw Cleveland shoot 5-of-22 from three-point range in the second half alone. They were just 2-of-3 from free throw line, this despite being in the bonus with more than three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
2: The number of shots Kevin Love took in the second half. Lue stated this was a function of a changing offensive scheme with LeBron James being forced to play the entire fourth quarter. “Our ball movement… I felt like we were just more aggressive in the first half,” said Love of the contrast.
12.3: JR Smith’s net rating on the night, the best of all Cavaliers thanks to another night of solid defense.
-19.7: Jeff Green’s on-off rating on the night, which is actually nearly four points better than the series as a whole. He’s been really, really bad.
The Cavs had a -12.6 Net Rating with Jeff Green on and a 6.8 Net Rating with him off tonight.
Now have a -22.7 Net Rating with him on and 6.6 Net Rating with him off in the series
A reminder that there are no laws that mandate he has to play in the series
— Mike Zavagno (@MZavagno11) April 21, 2018
5.8: The three-point percentage of all Pacers not named Bojan.
12: Of the last 14 shot attempts by the Cavs, 12 of them were three-pointers.
1: The first loss the Cavaliers sustained this season with a lead heading into the fourth quarter.