CAVALIERS 98, PACERS 95
CLEVELAND -- The game, the series, the season and perhaps Cleveland's future were in jeopardy.
LeBron James saved everything.
James dropped a three-pointer at the buzzer to give Cleveland a 98-95 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night in Game 5, putting the Cavaliers within one victory of advancing in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Moments after blocking Victor Oladipo's possible go-ahead layup -- a play the Pacers felt was goaltending -- James caught the inbounds pass, took two dribbles and hit his winner over Thaddeus Young.
"As a kid you always have those 3, 2, 1 moments, and that's what it kind of felt like," James said. "I felt like I was a kid all over again playing basketball at my house on makeshift hoops and my socks as a basketball."
James finished with 44 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists and went 15 of 15 from the line.
"He does it at both ends every single night," Cavs forward Kevin Love said. "That's why he's the best player in the world."
Kyle Korver added 19 points, and Cleveland's much-maligned defense tightened just in time as the Cavaliers seized their first lead in the first-round series after being down 1-0 and 2-1.
Cleveland can close out Indiana with a victory Friday night in Indianapolis.
While James' shot will be remembered, the Pacers were stinging from his block they felt was illegal.
With the score tied at 95-95, Oladipo, who shot just 2 of 15, drove the left side and was at the rim when James swooped in for a block on a play reminiscent of his Game 7 block on Andre Iguodala in the 2016 NBA Finals.
However, Oladipo thought his shot hit the backboard first and goaltending should have been called. TV replays showed the ball appear to hit the glass before James touched it.
"I got a step on him, and I felt I even got grabbed," Oladipo said. "It hit the backboard and he blocked it. It was a goaltend. It's hard to even speak on it. That layup is huge."
James smiled when asked about the play.
"Of course I didn't think it was a goaltend," he said with a laugh. "I try to make plays like that all the time. He made a heck of a move, got me leaning right and he went left, and I just tried to use my recovery speed and get back up there and make a play on the ball."
Oladipo's shooting woes continued. He's only 12 of 50 from the field in the past three games. He scored 32 in the Pacers' Game 1 victory, but the Cavs have been double-teaming him ever since.
The third quarter has been a major problem for Cleveland all season. The Cavs had tried everything to try and shake things up after halftime, even doing layup lines at the break in Game 4 like a high school squad.
Turns out, all it took was some defensive intensity.
Down by seven at half, the Cavs swarmed the Pacers in the third quarter, forcing five turnovers in the first six minutes and holding Indiana to one field goal over the first 6:52 while opening with a 19-3 run.
Cleveland outscored Indiana 32-17 in the third, when the Pacers shot just 5 for 16 (31 percent) and committed 7 turnovers.
"We didn't do anything new," said guard Jose Calderon, who started his second game in place of George Hill. "We were just more aggressive."
Calderon provided a huge lift, making a pair of three-pointers and contributing several other hustle plays in 20 minutes.
"Jose has been steady for us all year," Cavs Coach Tyronn Lue said. "G-Hill goes down and Jose comes in and makes plays. He's been that guy for us all year."
THUNDER 107, JAZZ 99
OKLAHOMA CITY — Russell Westbrook scored 45 points and the Oklahoma City Thunder rallied from 25 points down in the second half to fight off elimination and beat the Utah Jazz. Westbrook also had 15 rebounds and seven assists. Paul George added 34 points and eight rebounds. Utah takes a 3-2 lead back to Salt Lake City for Game 6 on Friday.
Oklahoma City took advantage after Utah’s post players, Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors, got into foul trouble. Both finished with five fouls, and Oklahoma City was able to get to the basket consistently for the first time in the series.
Jae Crowder had a career playoff-high 27 points for Utah. Donovan Mitchell scored 23 points, and Joe Ingles added 16.
Utah opened the second half on an 8-1 run to go up 64-42, and Crowder’s three-pointer made it 71-46 with 8:34 left in the third quarter.
Westbrook hit back-to-back three-pointers, then made a layup with 5:07 left in the third quarter to cut Utah’s lead to 73-60. Gobert picked up his fifth foul with 3:46 left in the third quarter. Westbrook’s three-pointer tied the game at 78 heading into the fourth quarter. Westbrook scored 20 points in the third quarter.
Westbrook scored immediately at the start of the fourth to finally put the Thunder in front. Back-to-back threes by Westbrook and Alex Abrines put Oklahoma City up 96-91, and a jumper by Westbrook with 1:24 left put Oklahoma City up 107-99.
At a glance
Toronto 108, Washington 98
Toronto leads series, 3-2
Cleveland 98, Indiana 95
Cleveland leads series, 3-2
Houston 122, Minnesota 104
Houston wins series, 4-1
Oklahoma City 107, Utah 99
Utah leads series 3-2
All times Central
Boston at Milwaukee, 7 p.m.
Sports on 04/26/2018
Print Headline: LeBron comes up large on both ends