By Michael Beaven
Beacon Journal sports writer

CLEVELAND: Cavaliers fans have grown accustomed to watching guard J.R. Smith “swish” 3-pointers.

Smith’s long-range shooting stroke wasn’t on point Wednesday when the Cavs beat the Pacers 98-95 to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference first round playoff series.

In fact, Smith was scoreless after missing all eight of his field goal attempts, including six from beyond the 3-point arc.

Smith didn’t pout about his offensive struggles, and instead turned his focus to playing defense against Pacers guard Victor Oladipo. Smith’s disruptiveness limited Oladipo to just 12 points in 40 minutes. Oladipo made 2-of-15 shots from the field, including 1-of-7 from 3-point range, and 7-of-9 free throws.

“When J.R. is playing the way he did in the second half defensively, physical into his [Oladipo] body, no air space, it really does wonders for our defense,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said.

“I thought the coaching staff had done a good job of just challenging the guys for the third quarter. Larry Drew, Mike Longabardi, Phil [Handy], [Damon] Jones, Jim Boylan, just challenging our guys to come out and have a good third quarter. I thought the guys responded. I thought J.R.’s defense in the second half was way better. We challenged J.R. at halftime and he was great for us. That third quarter got us back in the game.”

The Cavs outscored the Pacers 32-17 in the third quarter to hold an 81-73 lead entering the fourth quarter.

Of course, the Cavs won the game courtesy of LeBron James, who delivered a block of an Oladipo layup attempt with 5.0 seconds to go and then nailed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

James lauded Smith for playing “fantastic” defense.

“T Lue challenged me to do a better job,” said Smith, who played 33 minutes. “Just tried to be more physical, stay on his body more, as much as possible. Whenever he’s not in the scoring area, just trying to deny him the ball and make it tough.”

… About that third quarter …

Lue, James, Smith, Kevin Love, Jose Calderon and Larry Nance Jr. were all pleased with how the third quarter played out on Wednesday.

“We came out in the third quarter and fixed our third quarter woes,” Nance said. We were playing more aggressive than them and getting to our spots and beating them to theirs.”

Calderon said he is still hoping the Cavs can put together a full 48-minute effort.

“[Wednesday] in the first half we were awful on defense, too many mistakes,” Calderon said. “But after we came back in the third, and that was our problem in the first few games, and [Wednesday] we turned it around. If we can put all those four quarters together then I think we will be in good shape."

… “Unbelieveable” shot …

Nance described James’ game-winning 3-pointer as “unbelievable.”

“Being able to be part of this team and being able to celebrate with these guys and the guy that made the shot is pretty cool,” Nance said.

Said Lue: “As soon as it left his hand, it looked perfect.”

“As much as you can you’ve got to celebrate it and live in the moment,” Smith said. “Once you go in the showers and wash it off it’s over, you’ve got to work on the next game.”

… Observing LeBron …

Calderon said nothing surprises him anymore when it comes to James.

“The way he works, the way he takes care of his body, the way he gets ready for every game – you know this kind of thing happens for a reason,” Calderon said. “It’s not like luck when you’re this good, this talented and work this hard. He’s always ready to play.”

… Scoring tidbits …

James scored 30 or more points in a playoff game for the 101st time in his career. Michael Jordan is atop that list with 109 playoff games with 30 or more points. Kobe Bryant (88 occurrences), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (75 occurrences) and Jerry West (74 occurrences) round out the top five. . . . James also compiled his 21st career playoff game with 40 or more points. Jordan leads that list too with 38 playoff games of 40 or more points. West is third with 20 playoff games of 40 or more points.

… The Cedi connection …

Cavs rookie Cedi Osman has become James’ go-to-guy for post-game celebration hugs.

“I had one when we played Minnesota in the regular season,” James said. “I was able to hit a walk-off there and find my guy once again, Cedi. That’s my guy. That’s my rook and he’s always on time and on target.”

… 15-for-15 from the line …

James’ 15-of-15 performance from the free throw line Wednesday was the first time in his career that he has made that many attempts without a miss. The last Cavalier to accomplish the feat was Mark Price (16-of-16 on May 1, 1995 against New York).

“I am in a pretty good rhythm with my free throws right now,” James said. “I kind of just went back and watched some film on some of my previous free throw routines when I was shooting the ball extremely high. Kind of went all the way back to my Miami [Heat] days when I was shooting the ball extremely well at one point throughout the playoffs.”