Notes, quotes and observations after the Cavaliers’ 119-114 victory over the Indiana Pacers Thursday night in Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The victory gave the Cavs a 3-0 lead in the first-round Eastern Conference playoff series. Game 4 is Sunday at 1 p.m. in Indianapolis.
1. The Cavs’ comeback from a 26-point second-quarter deficit was the third-largest in NBA playoff history and the largest since the Los Angeles Clippers rallied from a 27-point second-half deficit against the Memphis Grizzlies in a first-round series in 2012.
2. Trailing by 25 points after two quarters, the Cavs overcame the largest halftime deficit in league postseason history.
3. And it happened without starters Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, benched for the entire fourth quarter by Cavs coach Tyronn Lue because of they were struggling. Irving hit 4 of 17 field goals, 1 for 6 from 3-point range, while Love was 4 of 12, 3 of 7 from beyond the arc.
4. The unit Lue went with in the fourth quarter may have seemed an unlikely group. LeBron James and Deron Williams played 12 minutes, Kyle Korver 11:53, Channing Frye 11:09 and Iman Shumpert 9:16.
5. Irving and Love were willing spectators.
6. “No questions, it was just ‘Go ahead, man, we ride this out and we live with the results,’” Irving said he told Lue. “We trust all our guys here.
7. “They were awesome. They had us going crazy on the bench. The guys were ready to play, ready to go out and give us what we needed and they did it at an extremely high level.”
8. Said Love, “Great for us. Great for us. Ty Lue looked at both of us and asked us if we were prepared and ready and I shook my head yes. But that team was rolling, man. That was a hell of an effort by those guys and it can do so much for us and our confidence. So many guys hit big shots and made big plays on both ends of the floor. You have to tip your hat to them. It was an incredible performance and just goes to show you why we love our teammates.”
9. It sounded like it was difficult for Lue to bench two of his Big Three.
10. “Every decision you make in the playoffs is difficult,” he said. “I had every intention to keep those guys in as long as they were playing well. That’s what playoff basketball is all about. Guys step up and play well and you just root those guys on. Overall it was a great team win for us. First thing Kevin and Kyrie said was, ‘Man let them go.’ After the game they were happy and said, ‘It’s not about us, it’s about the team.’ Not a big deal at all, especially when you come out with the win.”
11. But there would have been no historic comeback, no glory for the second unit if not for their leader, LeBron James, who turned in one of the greatest performances of his career.
12. With 41 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists, James recorded only the seventh 40-point triple-double in NBA playoff history.
13. It marked his second 40-point post-season triple-double, tying him with Oscar Robertson for the most in NBA history, according to ESPN. It was the 17th post-season triple-double of James’ career.
14. Michael Jordan has the most 30-point, 10-assist playoff games with 15, according to the Elias Sports Bureau; James is now tied with Jerry West for second with 14.
15. James scored 28 points in the second half, 15 in the fourth quarter.
16. He scored or assisted on 73 points, the most in a playoff game in his career, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
17. He won his 20th consecutive first-round playoff game.
18. “LeBron willed us home, 41, 12 and 13, played the whole second half. That’s what playoff basketball is all about,” Lue said. “You gotta be willing to sacrifice and lay it on the line to win a game and that’s what he did for us.”
19. Irving was adamant afterward. He didn’t want this game by James to be compared to anything Jordan or any of the game’s greats achieved, even if James did pass Kobe Bryant and moved into third on the NBA’s all-time playoff scoring list in the second quarter.
20. “He still amazes me. The question is can he ever amaze you guys?” Irving said. “Every time he does something amazing he’s always compared to someone else, other performances. But tonight that was unbelievable, down 25, tied for the biggest playoff comeback right there. Another historic win for the Cavs organization. He does unbelievable things. I’m always very excited and always happy, especially when he leads us to a win like that. I mean a 40-point triple double and the win, we’ll take it.”
21. Love had a good view of what he called James’ “special performance.”
22. “I believe it with him. It doesn’t surprise me. But you’re still in awe of a special performance like that,” Love said. “He was the one that kept us rolling and one of the great performances I’ve seen and been a part of and been able to play with. I don’t know what the stat line was at halftime, but the second half performance and being in the plus/minus and doing all the little things and things that don’t show up in the stat sheet as well as what does show up in the stat sheet, it was a special night.”
23. For the record, James’ plus/minus was plus-13 and that wasn’t the Cavs’ high. Williams was plus-17.
24. But James has said for years he doesn’t appreciate performances like this. That will come when he’s retired and sitting at home with a good glass of wine in hand.
25. Not surprisingly, he couldn’t digest or judge the importance of the 73 points he scored or assisted on.
26. “I can’t even sit up here and say I can,” he said. “One thing I do know is that we had a huge halftime deficit and were able to come back and win the game. I didn’t know it was the biggest comeback or things of that nature. I just try to put myself in position to help my teammates win no matter who’s on the floor with me. try to empower them, try to make them better, try to make them believe we can be great every night.”
27. When James is on the court with Love and Irving, it’s hard to tell how much he empowers them. On Thursday, with his zealous band of second-team brothers, it was glaringly evident.
28. “No matter who’s on the floor with me and for myself, I just don’t settle for being not as great as I can be,” James said. “It’s not going to result in a stat line like this every night. When my mind is fresh and in the moment, sometimes certain things like this happen, so I don’t know. I can’t even really appreciate it. I’ll let you guys write your words about it and go from there. Only thing that matters is a win and that’s what I’m here for.”
29. But even while the Cavs stayed calm as they chipped away at the 26-point lead, there was a flood of emotion when it was over.
30. “You just look at the excitement of my teammates after we won the game. I had the ball at the other end of the floor and all the teammates came down to congratulate each other on a huge win,” James said. “To win on the road in the postseason is already tough enough. For us to win in the fashion we did tonight is even tougher. I don’t think as a group we take that for granted. We showed that emotion when the clock went zero.”
31. Frye had an opinion on why James was so spectacular with the second unit in the fourth quarter.
32. “That second unit, we kind of showcase ‘Bron and what he does,” Frye said. “He’s basically the best rolling-to-the-basket passer in the league right now. When you have Kyle, myself, Deron is also a great assist guy and Shump who’s a great spot-up shooter and a great defender, it makes it kind of difficult. I think you saw a lot of layups were nobody was even near the paint. You’ve got to pick your poison with us. On the other end, defensively we were being active, sticking with the game plan and just kind of imposing our will. They’re a tough team. For us to come back we had to believe.”
33. Frye hoped the comeback silenced some of the critics who believe the defending champion Cavs are not the same close team they were a year ago.
34. “A lot of people question our chemistry and what we can and cannot do,” Frye said. “For us it shows, yes, any team can get down 26, but it takes a special team to come back from that. We don’t want to put ourselves in that situation, but we know the level we played in that second half is the level we’re going to have to try to keep up and play all 48 minutes.”
35. Frye hopes that’s possible.
36. “I’m not going to say I’m never worried, but I know we have different levels,” Frye said. “I think we reached a different level today and hopefully we can sustain it and hopefully we can build off it. When we’re moving that ball, when we’re active, I think our communication was great in the second half dealing with screen and rolls, dealing with Paul George, who is a phenomenal player. I’m just amazed each game … he just continues to get better even though we’re double-teaming him all around the court.”