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After a poor performance to start this series in Game 1, the Cleveland Cavaliers bounced back against the Indiana Pacers following a dominant display from their linchpin, LeBron James.
The series now shifts to Indiana for Games 3 and 4 at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse, where the Pacers will hold the advantage, having stolen the home court with their Game 1 win.
Here are three things that stood out from Game 2 between the Cleveland Cavaliers 100-97 win over the Indiana Pacers.
1. LeBron is still the best player in the league
After having what a sub-par night by his standards in the Game 1 loss, James took matters into his own hands in Game 2, where he absolutely shot the lights out in the first quarter.
James scored the Cavaliers’ first 16 points of the game, including an astonishing 11 points after only two-and-a-half minutes of the match. He ended the first quarter with 20 of the Cavaliers’ 33 points on nine-of-12 shooting, outscoring the entire Pacers team.
LeBron was rested for the majority of the second quarter; however, he still finished the first half with 29 points, eight rebounds and four assists. He finished the game with 46 points, 12 rebounds and five assists, and he made it his tenth playoff game where he recorded 40-plus points and ten-plus rebounds in a game and five-plus assists, six ahead of next best, Shaquille O’Neal.
LeBron’s first-quarter performance just shows what he truly is capable of and proves to all the doubters wrong – James knows how to score, and he can impact the scoreboard massively.
Some shots he put up were just amazing, with a plethora of fade-away jumpers from isolation plays, along with many unstoppable drives to the ring. He made a statement to the rest of the playoff teams that he is still the best player in the world.
2. The Pacers have alternatives to Victor Oladipo
Although Victor Oladipo finished up the match with a team-high 22 points and six assists, he played only 28 minutes as he was largely affected by getting himself into foul trouble early in the match.
By the time James had hit the first six points of the game, Oladipo had already picked up two fouls after barely one minute on the floor. He would return near the start of the second quarter and quickly moved to seven points, but he again picked up another foul with just under five minutes remaining in the first half.
By the start of the fourth quarter he had played only 19 minutes, and at that stage of the match the Pacers had brought the deficit from an 18-point high to just seven points at the final change.
Players like Myles Turner (18 points), Darren Collison (16 points) and Lance Stephenson (ten points) all stepped to fill the scoring void vacated by Oladipo. Stephenson was particularly influential, with his unique playing style helping to ignite the Pacers back in action. He and Turner both were able to help turn the tables on the Cavaliers’ big men.
So should Oladipo, who has been by far and away the Pacers best player this season, find himself in early foul trouble again this series, the Pacers needn’t worry too much.
3. The Cavaliers have a long way to go if they’re to get out of the East
Thanks largely to James, the Cavaliers started the game 16-0 and led by as much as 18 points in the opening quarter alone. They ended the first quarter with a 15-point lead, 33-18, but from then on in they could not win another quarter, almost giving up a phenomenal start, just holding on by three points.
That is a worrying sign for a team that is striving for a championship. James posted 46 of the Cavaliers’ 100 points, with Kevin Love (15 points) and Kyle Korver (12 points) the only other two Cavaliers to join him in double figures.
Clearly they need more contributors on the floor, but the most worrying sign was that they allowed the Pacers – without Oladipo for a large part of the comeback – back into the match despite a dominant first quarter.
As they are a team with expectations of making an exit from the East en route to the NBA finals, the Cavs shouldn’t be allowing teams back into games like these when they’ve been so dominant early, particularly when the opponent’s best player isn’t even on the floor.
Even on the defensive end they were poor, and had it not been for Oladipo missing his open three-pointer with just under a minute remaining, the Pacers would have tied proceedings and may very well have stolen the game.
The Cavaliers have a lot to work on, particularly if they want to come away from Indiana with a series lead.