The Cavs showed their championship-chops even with an offensive effort that was far from ready for June. After jumping out to a 23-point lead early in the second quarter, the visitors were sloppy with the ball, missed their share of shots and more than their share of free throws to let the Pacers hang around.
In fact, through most of the third quarter, the deficit seemed to always be 13 points. Close enough to give hope for a little run by the Pacers to make it a game. A game it never was, though thanks to all of the empty possessions at winning time in the final quarter. But the Cavs in general and LeBron in particular deserve credit for establishing the defensive tone that allowed the Pacers 73 points on 92 shots.
Case in point, was what would be the Pacers last gasp in the third quarter. A flashy five-point swing when Troy Murphy drove by Zydrunas Ilgauskas for a dunk only to be met at the rim and denied by LeBron James who took the ball the other way, dropped off Dahntay Jones around mid-court, drove into the lane and dished it out to Jawad Williams who knocked down a 3-ball.
Jim O'Brien called a timeout to let the Pacers gather themselves. On the next play, A.J. Price appeared to have a floater in the lane when LeBron flew in from the baseline to swat the shot at its apex, stunning everyone and sending the Cavs on the attack again ending in 1-2 FTs from LeBron.
On the next Pacers' possession, LeBron (no, I'm not kidding, he kept making plays) swiped a perimeter pass intended for Price and took it to the other end finishing a dunk while still rising. 6-0 run fueled completely by defense.
So on the next possession, Mike Dunleavy takes his turn in the lane. Once again LeBron flew in to swat the attempt about 13 feet off the ground, but this time goal-tending was the call. Still, the tone remained: no easy buckets. The Cavs were seeking out plays and then making them.
The numbers from this thing were crazy, worthy of plenty of bullets after the jump.
- The Pacers initial plan seemed to be to attack the paint. Unfortunately the Cavs were there to protect the rim which forced numerous missed shots around the rim early in the game. Once the Pacers retreated to the comfort of the perimeter, jumper after jumper caught the front iron sending the Cavs running the other way.
- The Pacers best defense was fouling LeBron and Shaquille O'Neal. The duo combined to shoot 16-29 from the free throw line.
- Speaking of free throws, the Pacers did make history by shooting a franchise-low five free throws all night. Their first not coming until 1:19 left in the first half. Hey, at least they made them all. At the other end, the Cavs shot 44 free throws, making only 23.
- The Cavs poor free throw shooting combined with their 20 turnovers were the only things keeping the Pacers in touch all night.
- Of course, the Pacers lost touch in the fourth quarter with that stellar 9-point outburst, with only three made field goals.
- For the second game in a row, MVP chants reigned down on from the cheap seats. LeBron earned those with his 22 points, 13 assists and 9 rebounds.
- Danny Granger simply struggled all night and led the front-rim brigade after abandoning his efforts to get to the rim. His 6 for 23 (1 of 8 3PT) shooting night from the floor netted him only 13 points.
- Shaq appear spry and engaged to teach Roy Hibbert a few lessons early. The man can still play the role of beast and despite the missed FTs still had 22 points in 24 minutes while eventually fouling Hibbert out. Roy struggled against his idol making just 2 of 9 shots.
- Brandon Rush played a pretty good game which I guess is high praise for any Pacer on this night. His on-ball, perimeter defense on LeBron really stood out at times.