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Wrap-Up -- The Cavaliers have been a tough team to figure out all season long. But the defending Eastern Conference champs showed exactly what they were made of with their backs against the wall on Sunday night.
Facing a fourth-quarter deficit and, more importantly, a potential 3-1 hole in their First Round series against Indiana, the Wine & Gold used a late push – propelled by Kyle Korver and LeBron James – to take the dramatic 104-100 victory at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, evening the series and taking back homecourt advantage.
One game after relinquishing their first fourth-quarter lead of the season, the Cavs were not about to repeat that feat – going on a 12-3 run after Lance Stephenson baited James into a technical foul midway through the final period.
Overall, Cleveland closed the contest on a 15-8 run with Korver notching eight of his 18 points in the final four minutes of the ballgame.
The Wine & Gold didn’t play a perfect ballgame, but several Cavaliers stepped up for the first time in the series as it shifts to Cleveland for Game 5 on Wednesday night.
Korver – who’s fought through a nagging injury as well as the recent passing of his younger brother – had his best game of the series. After going scoreless in both Games 1 and 3, the veteran sharpshooter brought the heat on Sunday – going 4-of-9 from long-range and 6-of-7 from the stripe, adding three boards and two blocks in a game the Cavs had to have.
”(Kyle) is a constant pro,” said Kevin Love. “He works on his shot every day and his quick release was there for him tonight, and we needed it.”
LeBron was his usual spectacular self in Game 4 – netting 23 of his game-high 32 points in the first half, going 12-for-22 from the floor and 8-of-9 from the stripe overall, adding a team-high 13 rebounds and seven assists to go with a pair of blocks.
It took almost four games, but James and Lance Stephenson resumed their perennial beef midway through the fourth quarter.
After Thaddeus Young scored on a tip-in to give the Pacers a two-point edge, 91-89, with 6:13 to play, Coach Tyronn Lue called timeout. On the way back to the huddle, James gave Stephenson a slight shove with his elbow. Stephenson, never one to shy from histrionics, went flying to the ground, resulting in a technical foul against LeBron.
Victor Oladipo sank the free throw, but that was about as good as it would get for the Pacers, who relinquished the lead 90 seconds later and never recovered.
The Cavaliers finally got solid production from their reserves – with Jordan Clarkson breaking out with 12 points on 5-for-9 shooting, including a stellar second quarter in which he went 4-of-4 from the floor, 2-for-2 from long-range.
Cleveland also got productive minutes off the bench from Jeff Green – who finished with eight points, four boards and four assists – Rodney Hood – who added six points – and Larry Nance Jr. – who chipped in with six points, three boards, a pair of steals and a block in 15 minutes of work.
”It means a lot to Rodney, Jordan and Larry,” praised LeBron after the win. “It’s their first opportunity in the postseason. It was a must win for us in a hostile environment. For them to play the way they did meant a lot.”
Jordan Clarkson adds 12 points off the bench to help even the series.
JR Smith also notched double-figures in the win – netting 12 points and five boards, going 4-of-10 from long-distance, including a 61-foot bomb from beyond halfcourt to close out the first quarter. Smith was also rock-solid on the defensive end against Victor Oladipo, who went 5-for-20 from the field on Sunday night.
The Pacers did feature seven players in double-figures in Game 5, with sophomore big man Domantas Sabonis leading the way with 19 points off the bench, going 9-of-12 from the floor. Thaddeus Young chipped in with 12 points and led both squads with 16 boards.
The Pacers led the Cavaliers in second-chance scoring, 17-9, but the Cavaliers were better on the break – outrunning Indiana, 17-7, in the pivotal Game 5 decision.
Turning Point -- Kyle Korver was a one-man turning point on Sunday night – saving his best for last in a stretch that saw him can two huge triples and a pair of free throws in the closing moments.
The 15-year vet – who took the collar in six three-point attempts in Games 1 and 3 – went 2-of-2 from deep and 2-of-2 from the stripe in the crucial closing stretch in Game 4, turning a three-point deficit into a six-point lead before Oladipo stopped the bleeding on a triple with 16 seconds to play.
Jeff Green split a pair of free throws with nine seconds remaining to make it a two-possession game with nine seconds to go that sealed the deal for Cleveland.
By the Numbers – .727 … Cavaliers’ winning percentage – (24-9) – regular and (now) postseason with Jose Calderon starting at the point. Calderon, who got a DNP-CD on Friday night, was pressed into service with George Hill still suffering from back spasms – finishing with five points, two boards and a pair of assist in the win.
Quotable – Coach Lue, on Sunday’s critical Game 4 in Indiana …
”We came on the road in a hostile environment and got a big win after a letdown last game. I thought we played good enough to win that last game. The guys thought that as well. When you lose a tough game like that it’s hard to bounce back, especially on the road. It’s just tribute to our guys’ character, who they are and we bounced back and won a tough game.”
Up Next -- After taking Sunday’s thriller and evening their First Round matchup at two games apiece, the Wine & Gold return home for a critical Game 5 matchup at The Q on Wednesday night (7 p.m.). From there, it’s back to Bankers Life Fieldhouse for Game 6 on Friday night (time TBD). Should the series go the distance, Game 7 takes place next Sunday back in Cleveland (time TBD).