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Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ thriller of a 104-100 road win over the Indiana Pacers in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference first-round series Sunday night.
1. Just one win. That’s all the Cavaliers needed in Indiana. Just one. They got it. Somehow. Some way. And now it’s a three-game series with two games (if needed) at home.
2. And there was never a moment of doubt. Or something like that.
3. Actually, in each of the last three games, the Cavs have held a huge lead in the first half — and won by three points, then lost, then won by four, respectively. In each of the last three games, the Cavs also led by double digits at halftime.
4. Translation: Something must be done about the Cavs in the final 24 minutes.
5. But there will be time enough to talk about that in a minute. For now, let’s just focus on the fact this series is tied at 2-2. Again, that means LeBron James has home-court advantage. The Cavs have to like those odds.
6. Still, with the way Victor Oladipo and the Pacers have been playing, this thing feels far from over. The Pacers are determined, fiery and confident. They are well-coached by Nate McMillan and a team in every sense of the word.
7. That said, the Cavs seem to do a better job defending Oladipo every game. He opened the series with a 32-point outburst. He scored 22 in the next, when the Cavs hung on by a fingernail to win. Oladipo then scored 18 in Game 3, followed by 17 in Game 4. He was a miserable 5-of-20 shooting Sunday as well.
8. So the Cavs are suddenly making life difficult for the opposing team’s star. When you do that, good things tend to happen.
9. The Cavs aren’t alone in this 2-2 business, either. Top-seeded Toronto is tied with bottom-seeded Washington after four games. That means if the Cavs advance, they won’t have to face a team that’s been sitting around, resting and waiting. On the other side of the bracket, Boston and Milwaukee are tied at 2-2, too.
10. This was probably the Cavs’ best all-around game of the series. While LeBron scored just nine points in the second half, the Cavs weathered the storm. Kyle Korver was a huge reason why, finishing with 18 points, including 4-of-5 shooting on 3-pointers in the second half. He hit a couple biggies near the end, turning himself back into Mr. Fourth Korver.
11. Clearly, the Cavs need Korver to make shots. He is 0-of-3 in each of their two losses in the series. He scored 12 (all on threes) in the other win.
12. Plus, it’s about more than just scoring for Korver. It’s about being on the floor. Sometimes, the Pacers are so concerned with Korver that they forget about LeBron. Sounds crazy, but that’s how lethal Korver can be.
13. James, of course, finished with another monster stat line — 32 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists. Best of all, he only had nine points in the second half and the Cavs still won.
14. Or maybe that’s not the best thing, as coach Tyronn Lue and the Cavs must find a way to get LeBron going in the second half. At least, they do if they hope to keep this thing going, both in this round and beyond.
15. J.R. Smith and Jordan Clarkson each did a nice job, scoring 12 points apiece, though in very different fashion. Smith got his all on threes, including a 61-footer off one leg to beat the first-quarter buzzer. Clarkson came off the bench, got the ball, and fired away like a streetballer with both eyes planted firmly on the basket. That’s OK. That’s what the Cavs need from him. Attack, shoot, shoot again and do it some more.
16. Meanwhile, Kevin Love was again bad offensively after picking up two quick fouls. Love finished with a measly five points. So much for being a consistent No. 2 option behind LeBron in the plkayoffs. Love just hasn’t lived up to that role.
17. He did collect 11 rebounds, and he did do some solid things defensively. Aside from his paltry shooting and lack of overall aggressiveness on offense, Love played a determined game.
18. As Colton Jones pointed out in his informative Five Quick Takes column, this was the first time all series the Cavs had four players reach double figures in scoring. They finally might be able to win one going away if Love starts hitting some shots.
19. Jeff Green (eight points, four rebounds) and Larry Nance Jr. (six points) gave strong showings off the bench in the frountcourt. Green probably takes too many threes, but at least he crashed the glass this time. Rebounding hasn’t exactly been his forte. Far from it most nights.
20. Also, Tristan Thompson saw his first real action of the series, playing seven minutes in the first half and garnering a plus-seven rating. He set two big screens that resulted in easy layups for LeBron. Thompson did not play in the second half.
21. LeBron on the importance of the win: “You don’t ever want to go down 3-1 against anybody, no matter if it’s the first round or if you’re fortunate enough to get all the way to the Finals, It’s just too difficult.”
22. The Pacers play so hard and so smart, and once again displayed some real balance. Domantas Sabonis led the way with 19 points, Oladipo and Myles Turner (7-of-9 shooting) had 17 apiece and Lance Stephenson scored 11. Thaddeus Young finished with 12 points and a game-high 16 rebounds, but missed no less than three layups in a game that went down to the wire.
23. As a team, the Cavs did a nice job on free throws, finishing 22-of-26. James went 8-of-9 from the line and Korver 6-of-7.
24. LeBron also got a technical when Stephenson got in his face (as usual) and LeBron extended a forearm to shove him away. “Lance told me a joke, I laughed, now I gotta go see the principal,” James said. “That’s what happened.”
25. Lue also responded strongly to a Pacers fan who heckled the fact the Cavs arrived wearing the same suits for the second straight game. “It’s a new fashion,” Lue said. “You wouldn’t know that. You live in Indiana.”
26. Probably not a cool move on the part of the Cavs’ coach, but a man can only take so much. But Lue is probably frustrated. He has not exactly done his best coaching job this season, or especially this series, and is really hearing it from the fans. If the Cavs want to get out this round, he’ll have to do better in terms of in-game management. He can’t just keep hoping Korver makes important threes.
27. Game 5 in Cleveland isn’t until Wednesday. That gives both Lue and McMillan two days to prepare. That edge has gone to McMillan every time. But it also gives LeBron time to rest, and that is a huge advantage for the Cavs. The bottom line on this series is they now have every reason to win. As hard as the Pacers play, the Cavs will have to choke it away.
28. It makes you wonder how much Indiana has left. No matter what the Pacers do, they can’t seem to get a big advantage over LeBron. At some point, that has to wear them down mentally. If that starts to set in, the Cavs should take advantage and end this thing quickly. No more messing around or getting schooled in third quarters.