The Indiana Pacers have been a team that has defied and exceeded expectations all season long, Friday night against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers was no exception. Roaring back from a 22-point deficit in the first quarter the Pacers defeated the Cavs in dramatic fashion to win 97-95.
With the win Friday night, the Pacers clinched their season series with the Cavs for the first time since LeBron’s return to Cleveland. Highlighted by a 34-point first quarter, it appeared that the Cavaliers were out to avenge their two consecutive blowout losses this week.
The Pacers shot 38% from the field in the first quarter and their star guard Victor Oladipo struggled to get in a rhythm with the Cavs focusing their defensive efforts on him and forcing other Pacers to score.
Indiana trailed until the final few seconds of a 32-point third quarter that flipped the momentum that seemed to be in Cleveland’s hands all evening. Cleveland battled foul trouble from their defensive anchor and center Tristan Thompson who missed a chunk of the third due to foul trouble which opened the floodgates.
Indiana opened the fourth quarter missing it’s first three shots and gave LeBron and company the opportunity to space the lead back out to 7 points. Everything changed when Lance Stephenson came off the bench in the middle of the fourth to do what he’s known for: Carefree basketball.
With Stephenson’s wild fastbreaks and antics with LeBron James (which eventually led to a James technical) the Pacers took the lead with two minutes left and never relinquished it. A defensive stop by guard Darren Collison late that led to LeBron stepping out of bounds sealed the deal for the Pacers.
“It’s great because you know the coaches are challenging you and it’s tough to guard LeBron. So, whoever has the guts to go into him and play him hard, I figured this is the game you can do it. It just happened to be on our side and we got the win” said Lance Stephenson on his confrontation.
“I should have known,” James said. “I’ve known since high school, it’s not the guy who tells the joke that gets caught, it’s the guy who laughs. They caught me on a retaliation. But he played well tonight.”
Lebron James led the Cavs with 27 points, 8 rebounds, and 10 assists while defensive hero Darren Collison led the Pacers offensively with 22 points and 4 assists in the victory.
The Pacers are about to embark on a five game road trip Sunday in Phoenix while the Cavaliers will play Golden State at home Monday night.
All quotes from Pacers.com