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LeBron carries Cavaliers to win

By JOE VARDON • Apr 19, 2018 at 1:51 AM

CLEVELAND — Playoff LeBron is here.

So are the Cavs.

As predicted, LeBron James took Game 2 into his own hands, and his effort early and late was just enough to push his team to a 100-97 victory over the Indiana Pacers to even this first-round series at a game apiece.

James finished with 46 points and set a franchise playoff record with 29 points in the first half. Not only did James scored the Cavs' first 16 points of the game, but he tallied the first 13 for either team.

That's what coach Tyronn Lue meant this week when he not only said James would set the tone early, but that Lue would call plays to make sure it happens.

Kevin Love added 15 points and eight boards, but he left the game with 3:43 remaining with an apparent left thumb injury. He broke a bone in his left hand this season, costing him 21 games.

Lue also dramatically shifted his starting lineup from Game 1, inserting JR Smith and Kyle Korver for Rodney Hood and Jeff Green. Korver was a difference maker with 12 points and four 3s.

Victor Oladipo, who led the Pacers with 22 and was their hero in Game 1, had a clean look at a 3 with 27 seconds left that would've tied the game at 95. The ball bounced off the rim to James, who made two free throws. Oladipo airballed a 3 with 19.2 seconds remaining, and you guessed it, James responded with two more foul shots.

The Cavs caught a break with Oladipo. He picked up two fouls just 1:02 into the game and sat the whole first quarter, and was hit with his third foul with 4:47 left in the first half.

Remember, Oladipo scored 32 in the Pacers' 98-80 win Sunday. Myles Turner had another solid game for Indiana with 18 points.

Back to James now, who kicked in 12 boards and five assists. He shot 17-of-24 from the field. He collected his 20th game of 40 or more points and 99th game of 30 or more points in the playoffs, and scored 11 in the final 8:50 of the fourth quarter.

The Cavs led by as many as 18 in the first quarter, and built a 13-0 advantage on James' back. He was already 6-of-7 from the field with a 3-pointer for a 13-0 Cavs lead before Bojan Bogdanovic made a free throw for the Pacers with 7:43 to go. James drained another 3, and then, with 6:35 left in the first period Kevin Love took and canned a 3 of his own.

According to ESPN's research wing, James' 16 points in the first six minutes of a playoff game were the most anyone's scored in the last 20 years. He wound up with 20 of Cleveland's 33 first-quarter points.

By going small with Smith and Korver and pressing the Pacers on the perimeter, the Cavs left themselves wide open in the lane and were outscored there 62-30. It's rare to win with that kind of discrepancy in the lane, but Cleveland knew what it was going for with its chosen lineup.

To that end, the Cavs outgunned the Pacers in 3s (11-of-28 for the Cavs; 6-of-22 for the Pacers). Indiana also committed 17 turnovers to Cleveland's 15.

Green has struggled so far in this series. He scored his only bucket in two games in the fourth quarter Wednesday.

Hood, who became a father to twins on Wednesday morning, scored five off the bench, as did Jose Calderon. Darren Collison rebounded from a rough Game 1 for Indiana to score 16 points.

Game 3 is at 7 p.m. Friday in Indianapolis.

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