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Cavaliers blow 17-point lead in Game 3 loss

By JOE VARDON • Apr 21, 2018 at 12:25 AM

INDIANAPOLIS — The Cavs picked the worst possible time to blow their first lead in a fourth quarter all season.

Putrid not just in the final 12, but for much of the second half, the Cavs puked all over themselves in a 92-90 loss to the Indiana Pacers in Game 3 of this first-round playoff series.

The Pacers now lead the series, 2-1. Cleveland was ahead by 17 at halftime and 69-63 through three quarters. The Cavs were 40-0 (playoffs and regular season) when leading through three quarters.

JR Smith's desperation 3 at the final buzzer, following a Darren Collison miss of a free throw, clanged off the rim.

But, really, the train was already off the rails before this one even got to the fourth.

Bojan Bogdanovic outscored LeBron James (a really bad sign). He erupted for a playoff-career high 30 points, including 15 in the final quarter. Bogdanovic was 7-of-9 from 3-point range. His 3-ball with 6:10 to go put the Pacers ahead 80-77. He was fouled by Kyle Korver on the play and made the free throw, and Indiana never trailed again.

James finished with 28 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists. He shot 10-of-22 with six turnovers. The Cavs trailed 84-77 before he went on a 7-0 run by himself to tie it, but Indiana responded with another quick seven.

Kevin Love scored 16 of his 19 points in the first half. His 3-pointer with 7.6 seconds left made it 91-90, Indiana. Collison made his first foul shot with about five seconds left but missed the second. Smith corralled the rebound, and with no timeouts left, raced ahead for a last look at a 3.

George Hill scored nine of his 13 in the first quarter. And for the third time in as many games in this series, that was it for the Cavs. No one else scored in double figures.

Korver missed all three of his shots. Rodney Hood and Smith scored eight apiece.

The Cavs all wore the same Thom Browne suits presented to them by James to the arena Friday night. If you look good, you play good. For a half.

Victor Oladipo finished with 18 points, six rebounds and seven assists, but shot 5-of-15. If you had told the Cavs before the game that those would be Oladipo's numbers, they'd have figured a win was in order.

Instead, a flaming pile of loss.

Thaddeus Young added 12 points and seven rebounds.

The Cavs led by 22 in Indianapolis on Jan. 12 and lost that game, 97-95. It was here in Game 3 last season when the Cavs overcame a 26-point deficit to stun the Pacers, 119-114.

James sat the first six minutes of second quarter and Indiana gained tripped its 11-point deficit by just a single point. The half ended with the Cavaliers up 57-40, the Hoosier crowd booing mercilessly (more so at the officials, who didn't protect Oladipo on his errant shot at the buzzer), and Love — not James — led all scorers with 16 points

Oladipo had just five points on six shots.

For as good as the Cavs were in the first half, they were that bad in the third quarter. They shot 5-of-19 (and 1-of-10 on 3s) in the quarter with seven turnovers. James was 1-of-6. The lane was cleansed of Cavs' defenders and Oladipo found his way to nine points. The Cavs were lucky to be ahead by six.

They weren't so lucky when it was all said and done.

Game 4 is at 8:30 p.m. Sunday.

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