INDIANAPOLIS — LeBron James celebrated another milestone with the greatest second-half comeback in playoff history.
Indiana guard Paul George (right) scored 36 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and handed out 9 assists, but it wasn’t enough as the Pacers lost to Cleveland on Thursday night to fall into a 3-0 in their NBA Eastern Conference playoff series.
Win one more at Indiana, the four-time MVP will be crowned king of the first round.
James scored 41 points while padding his postseason resume with yet another triple-double, leading defending champion Cleveland back from a 25-point halftime deficit to a 119-114 victory over the Pacers on Thursday night.
“We knew we had to take (some) punches, but it was a flurry, more than we expected,” James said. “At halftime, I was just looking at the guys and telling them ‘Let’s get a couple stops.’ ”
CAVALIERS 119, PACERS 114
Officially, it will go down as the third-largest comeback in playoff history. But the largest halftime deficit overcome previously was 21 points, by Baltimore against Philadelphia in 1948.
As for James, he keeps moving up in the record books, too.
He scored 28 in the second half and finished with 13 rebounds and 12 assists, moving past Kobe Bryant and into third on the NBA’s playoff scoring list. Bryant had 5,640 points; James now has 5,669.
James also won his 20th consecutive first-round game, matching a feat achieved by three other former Lakers — Michael Cooper, Magic Johnson and James Worthy. Win Sunday, and he’ll have the longest first-round winning streak under the current playoff format, which began in 1984.
Cleveland has won 11 consecutive first-round games since James returned to his hometown team.
And this time, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irvin got a firsthand glimpse of James’ mastery as they watched the entire fourth quarter from the bench.
Of course, none of that matters to James right now. All he wants to do is chase a fourth title.
“I just try to put myself in position to help my teammates win — no matter who’s on the floor with me,” James said. “I just don’t settle for being not as great as I can be. The only thing that matters is (winning) — that’s what I’m here for.”
Paul George did everything he could to get Indiana back in the series. He scored 36 points, grabbed a playoff career-high 15 rebounds and finishing with nine assists, one short of his second postseason triple-double. He even held James in check in the first half.
And it still wasn’t enough.
Now the Pacers are one loss away from being eliminated by James’ team for the fourth time in six years.
After trailing 74-49 at halftime, James helped spur a rally that cut the deficit to 77-62. Indiana extended the lead to 20 on back-to-back three-pointers from Jeff Teague and Lance Stephenson, and then it was all Cavs.
Cleveland finally tied the score at 98 and took its first lead since the first quarter when James scored on a dunk with 6:27 to go. The teams traded leads on each of the next four baskets, but after George’s three with 5:15 to go gave Indiana a 104-103 lead, James scored on a layup that started a 12-5 run to seal it.
“We just never quit,” 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.”
BUCKS 104, RAPTORS 77
MILWAUKEE — Khris Middleton scored 20 points and the Milwaukee Bucks overwhelmed the cold-shooting Toronto Raptors in a 27-point victory to take a 2-1 lead in their first-round NBA Eastern Conference playoff series. Greg Monroe added 16 points and seven rebounds for the Bucks, who held DeMar DeRozan without a basket and never looked back after leading by 20 points after the first quarter.
Making this blowout even more impressive was that they barely needed All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo. He finished with 19 points and eight rebounds.
Kyle Lowry had 13 points to lead Toronto.
Sports on 04/21/2017
Print Headline: James, Cavs rally from halftime hole