James, Cavs come from 26 down, win

Posted: April 21, 2017 at 1 a.m.

INDIANAPOLIS — LeBron James finished with 41 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists, and the Cleveland Cavaliers set an NBA postseason record by erasing a 25-point halftime deficit to beat the Indiana Pacers 119-114 on Thursday night and take a 3-0 lead. James passed Kobe Bryant for No. 3 on the NBA’s career playoff scoring list and tied another NBA record by winning his 20th consecutive first-round game. The Cavaliers will try to sweep the series Sunday. The incredible rally ruined Paul George’s big night. He had 36 points, a playoff career-high 15 rebounds and nine assists.

Cleveland trailed by 26 in the first half and was still down 74-49 at halftime. The largest halftime deficit overcome to win a playoff game had been 21 points by Baltimore against Philadelphia in 1948.

James scored 13 points in the third quarter to get the Cavs within 91-84.

James now has 5,669 points, 29 ahead of Bryant. He also matched three other ex-Los Angeles Lakers — Magic Johnson, Michael Cooper and James Worthy — for most consecutive first-round victories.

This comeback began with a second consecutive devastating third-quarter punch from the Cavs.

After Cleveland cut the deficit to 77-62 and then watched Indiana extend the margin to 20, Cleveland finished the quarter on a 17-4 spurt to make it 91-84.

Things only got worse for the Pacers.

George’s three with 5:15 to go gave Indiana a 104-103 lead — its last of the game. James answered with a layup out of a timeout and the Cavs never trailed again.

It’s only the second time in the Pacers’ NBA history they have lost the first three games in a best-of-seven series.

George had 23 points, nine rebounds and five assists, and Lance Stephenson added eight points and five rebounds in the first two quarters for the Pacers. Indiana scored 37 points in the first quarter, falling just short of a season high (39), then matched that 37 in the second quarter for its highest first-half total of the season.

For the Cavaliers, Kyrie Irving Kevin Love, J.R. Smith, Channing Frye all scored 13 points. Kyle Korver scored more points in two quarters

(six) than he did in the first two games (four). He finished with 12.

BUCKS 104, RAPTORS 77

MILWAUKEE — Khris Middleton scored 20 points and the Milwaukee Bucks overwhelmed the cold-shooting Toronto Raptors in a 27-point victory to take a 2-1 lead in their first-round NBA Eastern Conference playoff series. Greg Monroe added 16 points and seven rebounds for the Bucks, who held DeMar DeRozan without a basket and never looked back after leading by 20 points after the first quarter.

Making this blowout even more impressive was that they barely needed All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo. He finished with 19 points and eight rebounds.

With raucous fans wearing black Bucks giveaway T-shirts to match the players’ uniforms, Milwaukee put on a dominating display of basketball worthy of the team’s “Fear the Deer” slogan. Kyle Lowry had 13 points to lead Toronto.