The Indiana Pacers were down 34-12 at the end of the first quarter against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
We all should have known at this point what would happen next.
The Pacers came back to defeat LeBron James and the Cavaliers behind a spark from Bankers Life Fieldhouse’s own court jester, Lance Stephenson, and yet another big shot from Victor Oladipo.
“Huge team win,” Oladipo, who hit a 3-pointer that put the Pacers up for good with about two minutes left. “We’ve just got to continue to keep building on it. We grinded it out. We were down, we stayed with it, fought through adversity. We showed a little resilience and we’ve just got to keep going.”
Resilience has been the word of the season for these Pacers, who have comeback to win in four games where they were down by at least 19 points and a few more where they were down by that many but failed to finish it off.
“We just kept attacking, attacking,” said Darren Collison, who led the team in scoring with 22 points on 9-of-11 shooting. “I think in the first we weren’t settled down … but once we started getting a little bit of flow, we started getting more comfortable.”
No one was more important to the victory than Lance Stephenson, who finished with 16 points, 11 rebounds and four assists. He also continued his years of irritating LeBron James and earned a technical foul on James in the fourth quarter.
“I was surprised,” Stephenson said about LeBron getting a tech. “That was the first time he really showed he was mad … If I got under his skin, it worked in our favor.”
James, who called Stephenson “just a little dirty” after the game, seemed to be extra motivated to defeat Stephenson after he let Lance get to him and the Cavaliers surged ahead with a 7-0 run and after trading a few baskets were up by six points with less than four minutes remaining.
“I should have known,” said James, who finished with 27 points on 25 shot attempts to go with his 11 assists and eight rebounds. “I’ve known since high school, it’s not the guy who tells the joke that gets caught, it’s the guy who laughs. They caught me on a retaliation. But he played well tonight.”
Down six points with only four minutes left is nothing to these Pacers though, who have comeback from worse with frequency. The Cavaliers wouldn’t score a single point in the last 3:57.
The Pacers took the lead with two minutes remaining on what else, a Victor Oladipo 3-pointer and never gave it back.
The Cavaliers had their chances. With 5.5 seconds left, they got the switch they were hoping for with Darren Collison trying to guard James, but James stepped on the baseline and turned it over to Indiana.
“Praying,” Collison said of what he was thinking while guarding James. “Just trying to guard him the best way I can and hopefully something happens.”
Oladipo took to shouting DPOY to Collison in the locker room after the game.
They narrowly avoided a collapse like the Celtics game by giving the Cavaliers a chance at getting a good look to end the game. With Collison at the free-throw line and the Pacers up by one with just 1.4 seconds remaining, the Cavaliers were out of timeouts. Instead of intentionally missing the second free throw and forcing the Cavaliers to launch a full-court prayer, Collison made the free throw and gave one of the best outlet passers a chance to get LeBron a look at the win.
“That was probably one of the best passes I’ve ever seen,” Thaddeus Young, who was guarding James on the final play, said after the game. “I’m very pleased that we got a good contest on it, but not pleased that he actually got a look off.”