Cavs, Pacers brace for Game 7 showdown
The Indiana Pacers will force LeBron James to go the distance to remain unbeaten in first-round series.
Behind Victor Oladipo's 28 points and first career post-season triple-double, the Pacers sent the series back to Cleveland and pushed the defending Eastern Conference champions to the brink of an early exit and a possible summer of unrest with a 121-87 rout on Friday night.
"I just went out there and played. I did everything with confidence. I just played, read, and reacted," Oladipo said. "This game is over. It means absolutely nothing right now."
If he can play that way one more time, the Pacers could reach the Eastern Conference semi-finals for the first time since 2014.
History does not bode well for the Pacers. James is 12-0 all-time in first-round series and home teams have a major advantage in Game 7.
But the Pacers have defied the odds all season and this series has been no exception.
Their Game 1 victory, in Cleveland, ended James' record-setting 21-game winning streak in the first round.
In Game 6, Indiana handed the Cavs their first loss in a close-out game in 14 tries dating to 2009 and ended James' 11-game winning streak in closeout games.
It wasn't even close.
While James finished with 22 points, seven assists and five rebounds, coach Tyronn Lue opted to keep four of his five starters, including James, on the bench for the entire fourth quarter because Cleveland trailed by 25.
"They just took it to us (in the third)," James said. "They made shots. We missed shots. We didn't counter what they were doing defensively or offensively, and it just turned the game wide open."
Indiana did it by playing old-school post-season basketball - hard, aggressive, and relentless.
"I thought they really played fast and tried to attack us early," Lue said. "I don't even remember (what happened to start the second half). I really don't. It happened so quickly."
The Cavs never led after the Pacers used a 12-2 run to erase a 22-17 first-quarter deficit.
They led 57-47 at halftime, extended the margin to 92-67 after three, and led by as much as 36 before closing it out.
James was asked after the game if he had given any thought to the possibility that today's game could be his last in Cleveland.
"No, no," James said. "The thought that if we don't play well this will be my last game of the year, that will probably hit my mind. But, um, I haven't thought about (the future)."
James is expected to become a free agent this summer and many believe he could leave his hometown team for the second time in his career.