LeBron James records 44 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists and hits the game-winning triple to put the Cavaliers over the Pacers in Game 5, 98-95.

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LeBron James records 44 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists and hits the game-winning triple to put the Cavaliers over the Pacers in Game 5, 98-95.
Apr 25, 2018  |  00:00

Postgame: Victor Oladipo Press Conference - April 25, 2018

April 25, 2018 - Victor Oladipo speaks to the media after a tough Game 5 loss to Cavaliers.
Apr 25, 2018  |  07:04

Lance Caps The Third

April 25, 2018: Indiana Pacers vs. Cleveland Cavaliers - Highlights
Apr 25, 2018  |  02:06

Postgame: Pacers Locker Room - April 25, 2018

April 25, 2018 - After a close 98-95 loss in Game 5, Trevor Booker, Darren Collison, Thad Young, Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner shared their thoughts.
Apr 25, 2018  |  02:44

Postgame: LeBron James Press Conference - April 25, 2018

April 25, 2018 - Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James discusses Cleveland's 98-95 win over the Indiana Pacers in Game 5 of their First Round matchup.
Apr 25, 2018  |  11:46

Postgame: Nate McMillan Press Conference - April 25, 2018

April 25, 2018 - Pacers head coach Nate McMillan discusses Indiana's 98-95 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 5 of their first round matchup.
Apr 25, 2018  |  11:11

Thad Sabonis Give-&-Go

April 25, 2018: Indiana Pacers vs. Cleveland Cavaliers - Highlights
Apr 25, 2018  |  01:37

Lance Switches Hands Mid-Air

April 25, 2018: Indiana Pacers vs. Cleveland Cavaliers - Highlights
Apr 25, 2018  |  01:37

Turner Slams On The Break

April 25, 2018: Indiana Pacers vs. Cleveland Cavaliers - Highlights
Apr 25, 2018  |  00:55

DC Earns And-One

April 25, 2018: Indiana Pacers vs. Cleveland Cavaliers - Highlights
Apr 25, 2018  |  00:55

Pacers Learning the Hard Way

by Mark Montieth Writer

Victor Oladipo's shot has abandoned him at the worst possible time, and it's putting the Pacers' joyous season in jeopardy.

His confidence, however, appears to be intact. He's hit just 12-of-50 shots over the last three games, including a 2-of-15 performance in the Pacers' 98-95 loss to Cleveland on Wednesday in Game 5 of their first-round playoff series, but he hit all the targets he aimed for in his postgame remarks.

"Series ain't over," he said flatly. "We still got a game on Friday. Series ain't over. You've got to win four games for the series to be over, right?

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"So, we have a chance to win on Friday. I don't think anybody's discouraged. We're upset, obviously. It sucks. We want to win. It sucks. It definitely sucks. But we play on Friday."

The Pacers show resiliency from game to game and they show it within the game, but time is running out. Some habits will have to be broken, and quickly, for them to survive another game against LeBron James and the Cavaliers.

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Foremost among them is their habit of giving away every semi-comfortable lead they can muster. Their dramatic comebacks, as impressive as they are, don't automatically bring happy endings. They were one thing during the regular season, especially against losing teams, but they're quite another in a playoff game against a higher-seeded team featuring the NBA's best player. They've been reminded of that three times in this series as they've lost by three, four ,and three points after making frantic rallies from deficits of 18, 16, and 12.

Victor Oladipo

They can take pride in that, they take confidence from that, but now they have to take some anger and lessons from that. You don't have to lose focus or energy when you're up 10 in the first quarter, as the Pacers were on Wednesday. But they've done that, consistently, throughout the season.

Consider what happened after Domantas Sabonis' layup on a pick-and-roll bounce pass from Oladipo gave the Pacers a 10-point lead with 2 1/2 minutes left in the first quarter:

  • James hit a driving layup.
  • Darren Collison missed a rushed floater to beat the shot clock after Oladipo had lost control of his dribble.
  • James hit a driving layup.
  • Sabonis missed a hanging layup off a pick-and-roll feed.
  • James hit a driving layup.
  • Oladipo missed a driving layup on which he might have been fouled.
  • James drove to the basket, Trevor Booker either fell or was knocked down, and James scored again on an easy shot.
  • The Pacers committed a shot clock violation.

The Pacers rebuilt their lead in the second quarter, reaching a nine-point advantage twice. Each time, James responded with — take a guess — a driving layup. The last one of the half left the Pacers with a seven-point lead at the break, but you probably knew what was coming. This team doesn't build on leads, it tries to sit on them.

Cleveland dominated the third period, outscoring the Pacers 32-17, and taking a 12-point lead. Lance Stephenson's 28-foot 3-pointer at the quarter's buzzer made it an eight-point game, which left most Pacers fans scratching their heads: how were they that close after hitting 5-of-16 shots and committing seven turnovers in the period?

They came back, of course, because they always do, but they fell short again. The ending was filled with accusations and controversy and could be debated for months if the Pacers didn't have to get back to work so quickly.

Oladipo drove to the basket — perhaps a couple of seconds too late, but that's nit-picking — from out front to the left side of the basket. He thought he was fouled. Maybe. He also thought the shot was goaltended when James banged it off the backboard.

"It was a goaltend," Oladipo said matter-of-factly in the postgame press conference, having seen the replay. "I mean, it's hard to even speak on it. It just sucks, honestly."

Ernie Johnson later reported on TNT's studio broadcast that Joe Borgia, the NBA's head of replay and referee operations, agreed. The officials had missed the call. It wasn't eligible for review, however. Calls can be reviewed, non-calls cannot. It also was a bang-bang play that is often missed.

TNT's studio commentators also questioned Oladipo for going to the left side, and for not trying to dunk the ball.

LeBron James' game-winning shot and reaction

James' game-winning 3-pointer also invited controversy. The Pacers had a timeout to perhaps force the Cavs to reset their offense on the last possession and foul to give that could have stopped the clock and forced another inbound pass.

Thaddeus Young, who had forced James into a turnover with 26.3 seconds left, took the blame for allowing the 25-foot dagger at the buzzer.

"I'll put that one on me," Young said. "I could have got a little closer to him. We had one foul to give — maybe took a foul — or maybe kept him going right, we know he likes to shoot jumpers going left."

Pacers coach Nate McMillan said Bojan Bogdanovic was supposed to help defend James, but went back to his man when James ran toward midcourt to catch the inbound pass to prevent James from passing off. It's easy to second-guess all the decisions that led to James' shot, but only in hindsight.

"You can't let him catch it," Shaquille O'Neal said in the TNT studio.

"You just shake his hand in that situation," Charles Barkley said.

James would have been hard to foul, given how quickly he moved to his left after taking the inbound pass, and that was by design.

"I wanted to go quick so they couldn't give up that foul," he said in an on-court interview following the game.

Pacers fans have been wanting this team to get more respect nationally for a few months now, and they're getting it in this series. They only finished two games behind Cleveland in the regular season, but it was widely assumed the Cavs would dominate the series. It hasn't turned out that way at all, and people have noticed.

"It's been a very entertaining series," Barkley said.

"Oh, has it ever," Johnson said.

James agreed.

"That team never stops; that team never stops," he said before leaving the court. "It's going to be even tougher on Friday."

Over on another station, while calling another game, former Pacers playoff legend Reggie Miller made a comment about Minnesota's young team, which was being closed out by Houston.

"You want your young players to learn on the fly," he said.

The Pacers are doing that. They'll need to put the harsh lessons they're learning into action on Friday, however, if they want to avoid the embarrassment of the season ending on their home court.

Have a question for Mark? Want it to be on Email him at and you could be featured in his next mailbag.

Mark Montieth's book, "Reborn: The Pacers and the Return of Pro Basketball to Indianapolis," covers the formation and early seasons of the franchise. It is available at retail outlets throughout Indiana and online at sources such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Indiana Pacers. All opinions expressed by Mark Montieth are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Indiana Pacers, their partners, or sponsors.

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