Dribbles: LeBron, bench bunch stir up epic win

LeBron James and the Cavaliers raced past Paul George and the Pacers.
Sam Amico
Sam Amico

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Random dribbles from the Cavaliers’ 119-114 thriller of a comeback of a win over the host Indiana Pacers on Thursday:

1. Well, how about that? Another masterpiece from LeBron James — 41 points, 13 rebounds, 12 assists in the greatest second-half rally in playoff history. Every once in a while, the Cavaliers still play like champions.

2. Anyone who watched the game knows this more than just LeBron (albeit not much more). Channing Frye hit some huge 3-pointers. So did Kyle Korver. Deron Williams ran the point with some late-game precision. And Iman Shumpert offered some outstanding defense yet again.

3. Yes, I’m talking, Frye, Korver, Williams and Shumpert, and not Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. Neither Irving nor Love played with much energy or effectiveness. They had off nights at the same time. Everyone is allowed an off night. You’d hope it doesn’t happen too often to two of your All-Stars — but it does happen. What matters is that the other guys pick up the slack. On this night, the other Cavs did.

4. Irving and Love didn’t play in the fourth quarter. Tristan Thompson barely played. Thompson was pretty darn good the rest of the night, compiling nine points, 10 boards and some aggressive defense. For much of the first half, he was the only member of the Cavs who seemed interested. The man just never quits.

5. On the other hand, Irving and Love were not good in terms of D and energy. They combined for a miserable 8-of-29 shooting (Kyrie went 4-of-17). This isn’t intended to bury either player. But Cavs coach Tyronn Lue clearly did the right thing by putting them on the bench, and sticking with the lineup that ultimately won the game.

6. Thompson sat simply for matchup reasons and the fact Frye (13 points) could extend the Pacers’ D with his perimeter shooting.

7. Both Frye and Korver made key defense plays, getting their hands on the ball and creating turnovers late in the game. I never thought I’d write about how Frye and Korver made stands defensively, but it sure was the case on this night.

8. J.R. Smith also gave an underrated showing with 13 points. Korver finished with 12, and went 4-of-5 shooting on threes.

9. Paul George erupted for 36 for the Pacers, but he sure was quiet in the third quarter, when the Cavs started their comeback. Credit Lue and the Cavs’ defensive schemes for getting things turned around.

10. I love Indiana basketball and I’ve always enjoyed the Pacers. They’re a Midwestern team that doesn’t try to drown you with phony buzz. Like the Cavs, they’ve always been about the game. So it pains me to type this, but I have a strong feeling George will be traded this summer — either to the Boston Celtics or Los Angeles Lakers. I just can’t see this relationship continuing.

11. General manager David Griffin and the Cavs went out and got veterans such as Korver and Williams, and this game is a good example why they did. Overcoming a 26-point deficit in the playoffs and grabbing a 3-0 series lead is usually something only a veteran team can do.

12. Game 4 is Sunday at Indiana and I’d be surprised if the Pacers’ minds aren’t already on fishing. They’ve done everything they can in this series — and still lost. It could be over quickly.

13. LeBron to reporters on the win: “I just try to put myself in position to help my teammates win — no matter who’s on the floor with me. 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.”

14. Finally, Lue to reporters on the win: “We just never quit. We knew the importance of this game. To go up 3-0, makes things a lot more difficult for those guys.”

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