clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

NBA Playoffs: Pacers suffer all-time collapse, face a sweep against Cavaliers

New, comments

Indiana led 74-49 at halftime, but had no answer for LeBron James and Cleveland in the second half, losing 119-114 in stunning fashion in Game 3 at home.

NBA: Playoffs-Cleveland Cavaliers at Indiana Pacers Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

To summarize the Indiana Pacers in a historic Game 3 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers:

The Pacers scored 74 first half points, their highest point total in the 50 year history of the franchise. With 55% shooting, massive Myles Turner dunks, and winning ball movement and energy, the end result comes as a complete shock. With Indiana carving a hole in the Cavaliers defense in the first half, it’s a credit to the coaching staff of the Cavaliers to see the game and adjust away from what wasn’t working, like playing Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving.

Towards the end of the third quarter and the Cavs still down 20, Tyronn Lue made the decision to effectively bench the two All-Stars in favor of loading up on shooters around LeBron James. To no one’s surprise, the move worked, with Cleveland chipping away and eventually taking the lead. On the other side of things, Nate McMillan made the conscious decision to glue Jeff Teague to the bench well into the fourth as Lance Stephenson wreaked havoc on their own offense.

After Teague went out late in the third, the Pacers had no way to initiate the offense. Stephenson bogged down the offense he helped to soar in the first half, bricking five shots in a six minute stretch, playing directly into Cleveland’s hands. The missed shots were compounded with easy misses throughout the second half, but the 21 assists that gave them a 20 point lead halfway through the third turned into zero assists over the next 11 minutes of game action, also stalling a Paul George triple double bid at nine assists.

It wasn’t until Teague returned the game that the Pacers appeared to settle down, but by that point, James had complete control over the action and George wasn’t able to wrestle the momentum from him on a 4-14 second half shooting effort. George had 13 second half points, but against a similar 27-point half from James, even George’s own 21-point second quarter stood no chance.

George finished with 36 points, but no one scored more than 15 in support. Those extra points would’ve come in handy from anyone after a first half where every Pacers to hit the floor scored, including a big first half from both Thaddeus Young and Kevin Seraphin, who combined for two second half points after a pair of 11-point first halves. Young did complete a double double with 13 points and 14 rebounds, 10 of those coming on the offensive end.

James on the other hand did not have anyone score more than 13, but had four teammates hit multiple three pointers, whereas George had just two (Stephenson with three and Teague with four). The three point shooting of the Cavaliers was methodical, feasting in the corners to the tune of 13-15 shooting to wear down the Pacers in the second half. Cleveland had 21 on the night to Indiana’s 16, but it was James who was a lethal 6-12 that bludgeoned Indiana.

While there were bad rotations (why over play your hand with Stephenson? Why did Glenn Robinson III only get nine minutes?), bad shooting (just 12-48 in the second half), and bad spacing (why is Myles Turner shooting so many threes right now?), the ultimate difference was in James. The Cavs have him, the Pacers don’t. Even still, it doesn’t excuse the level of coaching the Pacers have had in this series with McMillan, who is guiding the Pacers directly to their first sweep in 25 years.

Two games in this series now the Pacers have had golden opportunities to win, but instead they now trail 0-3 and have shifted to talking about playing for “pride” in not being swept. In an Eastern Conference where the current level of play from the Pacers would have them right in the thick of things against any of the other seven playoff teams, they’re finding not how they match up against their peers, but instead how far they are from contending for a championship, a question that didn’t need answering, and a conundrum that likely won’t be solved in one offseason.

Indiana will only play for pride on Sunday, when they look to avoid the sweep in Game 4 in a matinee showcase at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. With a loss on Sunday the Pacers may very well be the first team bounced from the 2017 NBA Playoffs, hastening the Pacers to an offseason eight days removed from the 14 teams that didn’t have this pleasure.