Cavs rely on Lebron to sweep opening-round series again
INDIANAPOLIS -- (AP) LeBron James stuck to the old script Sunday.
Again, he bailed out the Cleveland Cavaliers. And again, he sent the Indiana Pacers home for vacation.
On yet another milestone day for basketball's king, James' crowning achievement was making the go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:08 to play and helping the defending champions hold on for a series-clinching 106-102 victory at Indiana.
"You have to mentally challenge yourself every year and go out and try to do what's right -- putting your body on the line, putting your team on the line and trying to be successful," James said. "It's very hard."
But the four-time MVP makes it look easy. He finished with 33 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, four steals and two blocks.
By winning his 21st consecutive first-round game, James broke a tie with Michael Cooper, Magic Johnson and James Worthy for the longest streak under the NBA's current playoff format. By sweeping a series for the 10th time, James broke a tie with Tim Duncan for the most in a career, according to Elias Sports Bureau. By going 13 of 25 from the field, he pulled into a tie with Kobe Bryant for the fourth highest postseason field goal total with 2,014.
And by holding on for the win, James improved to 52-0 in the playoffs when his team takes a double-digit lead into the fourth quarter.
James considered the milestones a footnote on a day the Cavs blew a 13-point lead and allowed the Pacers to come all the way back and take a 102-100 lead with 1:31 to go.
"They were giving it all they had," James said. "Obviously, a loss would have ended their season. We just had to weather the storm once again."
Of course that's when James took the cue and came to the rescue.
He made the long 3 to give Cleveland the lead, poked the ball away from Young on the next possession, grabbed the rebound when Paul George missed a 3 with 1.9 seconds to go that could have forced overtime and, of course, made 1 of 2 free throws to seal the win.
Now Cleveland takes a seven-game winning streak into the conference semifinals against either Milwaukee or Toronto.
For Indiana, it will go down as yet another tormenting chapter in their rivalry with James.
James' teams have eliminated the Pacers four times in six years and completed the first-four game sweep in Indiana's NBA history. Cleveland finished the season 7-1 against the Pacers, winning the last four with a defensive stand, a rare 25-point game from three players, the largest second-half comeback in playoff history and now James' knockout punch.
Lance Stephenson led the Pacers with 22 points. George had a series-low 15.