The Cavaliers survived. Sounds simple (and scary), but that’s about the only way to explain a 109-108 win over the Indiana Pacers in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series.
Somehow, someway, the Cavaliers lead this thing, 1-0.
It’s not because of great free-throw shooting. Instead, the Cavs finished 14-of-27 from the line.
It’s not because they did a great job of holding a lead. Instead, the Pacers went on a major run to close the game.
And it’s not because Pacers swingman C.J. Miles got something other than a good look at the basket with time set to expire.
Instead, Miles just missed his 14-footer and the Cavs escaped by the hair of their chinny chin chins.
Whew, said the home fans, who watched LeBron James and Kyrie Irving miss point blank shots near the end.
Whew, said the Cavs after watching Pacers star Paul George bury a 3-pointer from Akron to cut the lead to 1.
How, asked anyone who watched the Cavs seemingly pull away … then revert to their late-season form of recklessly blowing big leads.
So how did the Cavs end up winning? Well, James and Irving and Kevin Love, that’s how.
James finished with 32 points and 13 assists, lifting the Cavs in the third quarter and much of the fourth.
Irving scored 23 points and made two huge steals in the final two minutes. His defense may have been better than at any time this year.
And Love scored 17, including 10 in the first quarter. The Cavs are 15-1 this season when Love hits double digits in the first 12 minutes.
Channing Frye added 11 for the Cavs and Tristan Thompson had eight points and 13 boards.
Interestingly, Iman Shumpert, a regular part of the Cavs’ plans during the regular season, did not get off the bench. He appears to have fallen out of the rotation.
Anyway, was it a thing of beauty? Hardly. The Cavs still have many things that need cleaned up.
They still seem determined to make it difficult on themselves. Maybe that can change in Game 2.
But if you’re the Pacers, you have to be thinking this could have been the one you stole.
But you missed. You just missed, but missed nonetheless.
George led the Pacers with 29 points and seven assists.
I’ll have more later in my Dribbles.
One shot away from stealing Game 1 pic.twitter.com/Q53x3n4Jwe
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) April 15, 2017