The Cleveland Cavaliers had one goal up one with 20 seconds left with the Indiana Pacers looking for a game-winning shot to steal a game one win on the road: Don’t let Paul George beat you.
Cleveland let George get the ball out of the inbounds play, but quickly double teamed him with LeBron and forced the ball out of his hands.
C.J. Miles worked himself open and got a very makeable look at the buzzer, but the shot fell short and so did the Pacers attempt at a road upset in the opening game of the series.
George continued his strong play from the end of the regular season with 29 points, seven rebounds and five assists, but the Pacers were unable to get him a look to win it at the end. George was hoping to get the ball back after passing it to Miles.
“I talked to CJ about that,” said George. “In situations like that, I’ve got to get the last shot.”
The Pacers lost this game by only one point despite the Cavaliers shooting nearly 60% for the vast majority of the game (finished at 54%).
Repeatedly the Cavs got the Pacers to switch Jeff Teague onto LeBron James in a pick and roll and rarely sent help as James, who added 32 points, 13 assists and six rebounds, picked apart the Pacers defense all game long.
It’s encouraging for the Pacers that they were able to keep the game within reach despite the defensive troubles, but Nate McMillan and his coaching staff will have to make major adjustments before game two if they want to have a chance in the series.
George felt the team didn’t play physically enough or tough enough on defense.
“They walked wherever they wanted to,” said George of the Pacers defensive struggles. “They ran wherever they wanted to. That’s not playoff basketball.”
Offensively, the Pacers were getting whatever they wanted for the majority of the game and it allowed them to always keep the game within reach despite not being able to slow down the Cavalier offense.
Lance Stephenson continues to show his value for the Pacers as he was the Pacers second-leading scorer with 16 points and added seven rebounds and three assists coming off the bench.
With the Pacers down 10 early in the fourth quarter, Stephenson got the Pacers back in it by driving to the basket, finding open teammates or nailing midrange jumpers. It wouldn’t be surprising if Stephenson is a starter for the Pacers again before the end of this series.
The Pacers took a brief lead in the fourth quarter on a three from Jeff Teague, but the Cavs quickly answered with a James driving dunk and a Kyrie Irving jumper to get the lead right back.
Game two of the series is on Monday. Jeff Teague called it a “must-win game” for the Pacers.