Cavs' role players step up to support LeBron and tie series with Pacers


INDIANAPOLIS — Game 4 for the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday followed many of the ongoing trends of their first-round series with the Indiana Pacers.

LeBron James, once again, was brilliant. The third quarter, once again, was problematic. And the Pacers, once again, played with no sense of fear for the three-time defending Eastern Conference champions.

What was different for the Cavs — and the reason they are heading back to Cleveland with the series tied 2-2 — is that a cadre of Cavs role players stepped up with their best performances yet of the 2018 playoffs.

Yes, James’ 32 points, 13 rebounds and 7 assists were the biggest determining factors in Cleveland’s 104-100 Game 4 win, but it was Kyle Korver‘s 18 points (including two clutch 3-pointers in the fourth quarter), JR Smith‘s 12 points (including an amazing 61-foot buzzer-beater to finish the first quarter) and Jordan Clarkson‘s 12 points off the bench (including going 5-for-5 in the first half) that pushed the Cavs over the top.

After dropping Game 1 on their home court, the Cavs have now won two of the past three games against Indiana, and if it wasn’t for blowing a 17-point halftime lead in Game 3, the series would be 3-1 in their favor.

Heading into the postseason, James warned this was a balanced Indiana team that the Cavs were getting tangled up with. He said that the razor-thin margin between the two teams — Cleveland the No. 4 seed, Indiana the No. 5 — wasn’t an accident.

The Cavs certainly aren’t out of the woods yet. George Hill missed Game 4 because of back spasms, and while Jose Calderon filled in amiably Sunday with five points on 2-for-4 shooting, two rebounds and two assists in 19 minutes, missing a starter always sends a ripple effect through a rotation.

Then there’s a hungry Indiana team to contend with. The Pacers put all five starters in double digits in Game 4, and seven players total. Even though All-Star Victor Oladipo had another tough shooting night (17 points on 5-for-20 from the floor), Indiana was in it until the very end with big contributions from the likes of Domantas Sabonis (19 points on 9-for-12 shooting) and Myles Turner (17 points on 7-for-9).

As off as Oladipo was, the Cavs survived an even worse night from Kevin Love. He scored just five points on 2-for-10 shooting as he picked up two fouls in the first 90 seconds of the game and only continued to struggle from there.

As if the series — now reduced to a best-of-three — wasn’t must-see TV already, The Lance Stephenson Show reached a crescendo on Sunday with several standoffs with James and a tackle of Jeff Green that only escalated the growing animosity between the two teams.



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