Friday, April 21, 2017

J-Speaks: The Historic Comeback by the Defending NBA Champs

In the first 24 minutes of their Game 3 contest of the First-Round at the Indiana Pacers on Thursday night, the Cleveland Cavaliers and all their defensive problems, particularly over the last two months of the regular season were on full display as the Indiana Pacers had their way offensively and seemed on the verge of cutting their 2-0 series deficit in half. Then the second half came and the Cavaliers put on a historic comeback and their leader LeBron James made some NBA playoff history along the way.
In the first half, the Indiana Pacers shattered their franchise playoff record, both in the American Basketball Association (ABA) and the National Basketball Association (NBA) 74 points in the opening half, led by the 23 points of All-Star swingman Paul George to go along with nine boards and five assists, and the Pacers led by 25 points at intermission.
In the second half, the Cavaliers outscored the Pacers 70-40 in the second half and overcame a 26-point deficit to win the contest 119-114, taking a strangle hold on the series at 3-0.
The 26-point comeback by the defending champion Cavs tied the largest in NBA postseason history. The Los Angeles Clippers overcame a 26-point deficit in Game 1 of their 2012 opening-round series at the Memphis Grizzlies to win 99-98. Clippers won the series in seven games.
The 25-point halftime deficit that the Cavs overcame is the largest in postseason history, overtaking the 21-point halftime comeback by the then Baltimore Bullets against the Philadelphia Warriors in the 1948 Finals.
At the head of this comeback was James and the four-time MVP garnered not only his 14th triple-double of this season, it was the 17th of his playoff career with 41 points, 13 rebounds, and 12 assists to go along with two blocks in 45 minutes, on 14 for 27 from the field.  
Only Hall of Famer and five-time NBA champion with the Los Angeles Lakers Earvin “Magic” Johnson has more postseason triple-doubles than James’ 17 with 30. Milwaukee Bucks head coach Jason Kidd has 11 career playoff triple-doubles. Tied for fourth place with 10 career playoff triple-doubles are Pacers’ president Larry Bird and current Chicago Bulls guard Rajon Rondo.  
 “We got stops. We got aggressive and we’ve been tested a lot throughout this season. Throughout the last three years and we just played Cavaliers basketball in the second half and it allowed us to get this huge win,” the four-time MVP and three-time Finals MVP said to TNT’s sideline reporter Kristen Ledlow after the game.
James, who scored 13 points in the third quarter and 15 points in the fourth quarter, moved passed future Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant into third place on the NBA’s all-time playoff scoring list, with James having scored 5,669 points and counting in 202 career playoff games. Bryant had scored 5,640 points in 220 career games in his postseason career.
James also moved passed Hall of Famer and NBA champion Wes Unseld (1,777) into 7th place on “The Association’s” all-time playoff rebounding list with, where he now stands at 1,787 career postseason boards. He also tied Hall of Famer and “the logo” Jerry West for the second most 30-plus point, 10-plus assists games in the playoffs with 14. Only Jordan has more with 15 games.
All-Stars Kevin Love, and Kyrie Irving and J.R. Smith each had 13 points, and Channing Frye had 13 off the bench. Kyle Korver also contributed 12 points off the pine.
A big part of the Cavs turnaround in the second half was their ability to hit from behind the three-point arc, going 13 for 22 in the second half. They finished 21 for 44 on the night from long distance.
James was 6 for 12 from distance, including a huge from the left corner late at the 2:51 mark in the fourth quarter that put the Cavs up 111-107. He also moved passed Bryant for fourth in the career playoff list for triples made with 295. Smith was 4 for 8 from three-point land; Korver was 4 for 5; Love was 3 for 7 and Frye, whose second triple on his fifth try sealed the victory for the Cavs.
While he had a quiet nine points, starting center Tristan Thompson had 10 big boards, three of the seven Cavs’ blocks shots and seemingly was everywhere at the defensive end. There were times in the second half he had to guard George on the perimeter and he did a tremendous job moving his feet keeping George in front of him.
On one defensive possession, early in the third quarter, Thompson stripped George of the ball, then contested a shot he put up that went wide left and forced a 24-second shot clock violation.
That effort was contagious, particularly in the final 4:23 of the third quarter, where they went on a 17-4 and in the entire fourth quarter, where the Pacers seemingly could not do anything at the offensive end. They went making every play that you could make offensively in the first half, to making every mistake possible at the offensive end.
The Pacers in the opening 24 minutes had crisp on the mark ball movement that led to easy layups and open three-point shots. In the next 24 minutes, nearly every pass and shot attempt was contested and the Cavs had the superior ball movement and man movement.
The Pacers seemingly were losing their composure from not getting any foul calls and the Cavs got wide open three-point shot, after wide open three-point shot.
“Here we are up 26 to start the second half. With a chance to put our foot on their throat and we came out relaxed,” George, who went scoreless in the third quarter said after the game.
“We didn’t pressure up on the ball. We didn’t make anything tough again not to be singling out teammates, we got to do a better job of talking, of communicating. Of knowing where everybody is on the floor. In today’s NBA, it’s tough guarding stretch teams and this is one of the toughest matchups in doing it.”   
There were a few occasions, especially in the fourth where James went to the basket uncontested where he scored or found one of his teammates for shots from three-point range. He even got of an inbounds pass out of a time out at the 4:54 mark in the final stanza from Deron Williams, who had his second assists on the night.
That not only fueled the Cavs that were on the floor, but their bench was energized and leading the cheers were Love, Smith, and Irving. The Cavs in the final period shot 63 percent and held the Pacers to just 32 percent and 40 percent for the game.
“I’ve seen two of our big three didn’t have it offensively throughout the game for Ky and Kev,” James said to Ledlow. “So, I knew I had to pick my aggression up a little bit more. Our bench gets the game ball. Kyle, Channing, Shump, D-Will. Those guys came in and gave us a hell of a boost and we needed that tonight.”  
George, who scored of a team-high 36 points in the fourth quarter, to go along with 15 rebounds and nine assists, was just 10 for 28 shooting, including 5 for 15 from three-point range and did not score in the third quarter. Lance Stephenson had 13 points, but was just 4 for 12 from the field, including3 for 7 from distance. Starting center Myles Turner had just six points on the evening, going just 3 for 12 from the floor.  
“I thought we came out kind of passive,” Pacers head coach Nate McMillan said after the game. “You knew they were going to be more aggressive.”
This game and this series showed the difference between these two teams and where they currently stand.
Despite a rough start to Game 3, James still stuck with it and he kept his teammates engaged and when they had their chance to make their push they did and pulled one out.

It also showed the kind of coach Lue is. How many head coaches would keep their best two players in Love and Irving on the bench during the run the Cavs had to get them back into the game and as mentioned earlier, it was Love and Irving that were leading cheers on the sideline when the Cavs were making their push in the third and fourth quarters on Thursday night.  
The Pacers on the other hand when they had their chance to make this a series, they took their foot off the accelerator. They allowed the officials to get into their heads. George lost his composure when the Cavs got physical with him and when things got tight, they tried to get the momentum back all at once instead of doing it together. That resulted on break downs on both ends of the court and are now are not only one defeat away from losing in the postseason to a James’ led team for the fourth time in the last six postseasons, but from suffering their first four-game sweep since joining the NBA.   
The defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers limped into this postseason going 6-9 their final 15 games and were just 20-21 on the road in the regular season. They took care of business by winning both their home games and their historic comeback has them one game away from moving on to the Semifinals in their quest of for back-to-back titles.
The victory also gave James his 20th in succession in the opening round, which matched the great Lakers championship trio of Michael Cooper, the “Magic” Johnson and fellow Hall of Famer James Worthy and pushed his career record in the postseason with the Cavs and Miami Heat to 46-7 in the quarterfinals.
With a Game 4 victory on Sunday at 1 p.m. on ABC, James will have the longest first-round winning streak by a player under the current playoff format, which began back in 1984.
The Cavs would also tie the Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder and formerly the Seattle Supersonics with a perfect 12-0 mark for the most series wins without a setback after going 2-0 in a best-of-seven series. The Boston Celtics have the best all-time mark of 34-0.
It will also improve his career playoff record to 12-0 in the first-round and it would be the seventh sweep of an opponent. It would also be the 12th straight opening round series win since James returned to his hometown team.
“We just never quit,” Cavs’ head coach Tyronn Lue said. “We knew the importance of this game. To go up 3-0, makes things a lot more difficult for those guys.”
Information, statistics, and quotations are courtesy of 4/13/17 8 p.m. NBATV’s “Eastern Conference Playoff Preview,” with Matt Winer, Steve Smith, and Sam Mitchell; 4/20/17 7 p.m. contest, Game 3 of First-Round Cleveland Cavaliers versus Indiana Pacers on TNT with Brian Anderson, Kevin McHale, and Kristen Ledlow; 4/21/17 12 a.m. edition of “Inside the NBA,” presented by Kia on TNT with Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal; Year-by-Year section of the Sporting News “Official 2006-07 NBA Guide”; and  

No comments:

Post a Comment