Tuesday, April 18, 2017
Irving shines as Cavs take grip on Pacers
LOS ANGELES -- Kyrie Irving scored 37 points as the Cleveland Cavaliers overcame a fierce late fightback from the Indiana Pacers to hold on for a 117-111 victory and take a 2-0 series lead in their Eastern Conference playoff duel on Monday.
The reigning NBA champions appeared to be cruising to a comfortable win after opening up an 18-point lead at the end of the third quarter in front of their home fans at the Quicken Loans Arena.
But a Paul George three-pointer saw the Pacers close to within four points with 18.1 seconds remaining to set up a nervous finale as Cleveland's recent inability to close out wins reared its head once more.
With an upset looming however, Cleveland regained the initiative and two late free throws from Irving put them 117-109 ahead as the final seconds counted down.
Irving led Cleveland's scoring on a night when all of the champions' big guns fired. LeBron James finished with 25 points while Kevin Love had 27 points.
But Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue sounded the warning about his team's high turnover count, which allowed the Pacers to re-enter the contest.
"I just saw turnovers," Lue said. "We've gotta take care of the basketball. We turned the ball over and it hurt us. Nineteen turnovers for 24 points. It's hard to win playoff games like that."
James was one of the biggest offenders, with eight turnovers, something Lue blamed on fatigue.
"Maybe getting a little tired," Lue said. "He understands he has to be better. He makes a lot of plays for this team but we've just gotta be better with the basketball."
For Indiana, George led the way with 32 points while Jeff Teague weighed in with 23 points and Thaddeus Young 16.
The best-of-seven series now heads to Indianapolis on Thursday for Game 3.
The Cavaliers had led 32-29 after an attritional first quarter but began to pull away in the second with James to the fore.
They forged into a 51-39 lead after a 16-2 run before the Pacers battled back to within five points as the half finished with the Cavs up 63-58.
However, Cleveland quashed the Pacers fightback at the start of the third quarter, reeling off a 7-0 run to lead by 12 points at 70-58.
From there the Cavs seemingly had Indiana's measure and an inspired cameo from Love, who scored 10 straight points, saw Cleveland jump out in front by 89-70.
A three-pointer on the buzzer from Kyrie Irving handed Cleveland a 96-78 lead heading into the fourth quarter, an 18-point cushion.
Yet with a straightforward romp to victory beckoning, Cleveland again made life difficult for themselves, with errors allowing Indiana to compile an eight-point run that slashed the lead to just seven points at 109-102 with 2:42 remaining.
The lead was cut to four with 18 seconds to go, but Irving responded to put Cleveland within two wins of a series victory.