Victor Oladipo scored 28 points and posted the first postseason triple-double of his career Friday night, leading the Indiana Pacers to a 121-87 blowout over the Cleveland Cavaliers to even the series at three.
Game 7 will be played Sunday in Cleveland.
The three-time defending Eastern Conference champs again were led by LeBron James with 22 points, seven assists and five rebounds despite sitting out the entire fourth quarter. Nobody else scored more than 13 points as the Cavaliers lost their first closeout game in 14 tries dating back to 2009. James had won 11 consecutive closeout games and is 12-0 all time in the first-round series.
With their season at stake, Indiana played hard, aggressive and tough.
And it showed with a record-breaking victory margin.
Kevin Love hurt his left wrist on a hard fall midway through the second quarter and wound up scoring just seven points while shooting 3-of-10 from the field.
James took a shot, too, cutting the side of his left eye when he ran into Thaddeus Young’s elbow on a drive late in the first half. No foul was called and James returned with a bandage protecting his face.
But with a relaxed Oladipo figuring out how to defeat the Cavs’ double teams, he rediscovered his shooting touch. Oladipo finished with 13 rebounds, 10 assists and was 11-of-19 from the field and 6-of-8 on threes to keep the Pacers in charge most of the game.
After the Pacers erased a 22-17 deficit with a 12-2 run, the Cavs never led again.
Indiana’s 10-2 spurt midway through the second quarter made it 46-36. The Pacers opened the third by scoring the first five points to bring up 62-47 and then they poured it on.
Myles Turner’s 3-pointer with 7:03 left in the third made it a 20-point game and the Pacers closed the quarter on a 10-1 run to extend the lead to 92-67.
Cavaliers: The 34-point margin was Cleveland’s worst playoffs loss since James returned … The Cavs finished 1-4 in Indianapolis this season after falling to 4-6 in the season series … Cleveland have only lost eight playoff games against the East since 2015 – three in this series … Last year, the Cavs averaged 116.2 points per game. This year, they’ve only reached triple digits once in the six games … Jeff Green scored 13 points and Rodney Hood had 12 as the Cavs committed 15 turnovers and were 12-of-38 on threes.
Pacers: Have not lost three straight games since snapping a five-game skid in early January … The Pacers’ three wins have come by 18, two and 34 points. The Cavs’ wins have come by margins of three, four and three points … Indiana have been eliminated by James’ teams in four of their last six playoffs appearances … The Pacers produced their highest point total in the series Friday … Seven players scored in double figures: Domantas Sabonis had 19, Darren Collison 15, Lance Stephenson 12 and Bojan Bogndanovic and Young each had 10 … Indiana were 15-of-30 on threes.
CALL IT AS THEY SEE IT
Pacers coach Nate McMillan artfully dodged a pregame question about whether he thought LeBron James got the bulk of close calls in the series.
Indianapolis mayor Joe Hogsett did not. Hogsett signed an executive order declaring that ”unlike some cities, goaltending remains an illegal action in the game of basketball – for all players, on all teams, without exception”, he wrote. The proclamation continued: ”Indiana is the center of the basketball universe, and sometimes that means we have an obligation to stand up and defend the basic rules of the game.”
But when McMillan was asked about the calls, he told a story about splitting his team up in practice and that even then the starters or star players tend to get advantageous calls.
”Sometimes it’s human nature to have this player and this player and give it to this player,” he said playfully without identifying names.
Cavaliers point guard George Hill missed his third straight game but does appear to be on the mend.
He participated in the Cavs’ morning shootaround, with a wrap around his injured back. And he participated in a pregame workout before he was deactivated.
In fact, 90 minutes before the game started, coach Tyronn Lue still didn’t know whether Hill would play.
”Not sure,” he said. ”He had a workout, so we’ll see.”
Game 7 will be played Sunday.