CLEVELAND — Never mind that the Cleveland Cavaliers nearly blew another late double-digit lead in their 117-111 Game 2 victory over the Indiana Pacers to go up 2-0 in their Eastern Conference first-round series.
LeBron James says the defending-champion Cavs are on the brink of putting it all together.
“We’re right there,” James said after putting up 25 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists on Monday. “We’re right there of what we know we can become, and we’ll figure it out. So, like I told you, I’d much rather have an 18-point lead than not have a lead at all. And we make plays down the stretch to win a ball game in the postseason, and that’s all you can ask for. But we’re right there on turning the switch on what we really can become.”
Cleveland came into the fourth quarter with an 18-point lead and saw the Pacers cut it all the way to four with 19.5 seconds remaining, reminiscent of the way Indiana was able to turn a 12-point deficit late in the third quarter in Game 1 to a two-point lead with 3:31 remaining in the fourth Saturday.
James affirmed he’s playing with an elevated level of confidence even with the No. 2 seed Cavs in such a close series with the No. 7 Pacers, in which Cleveland has won by a total of seven points on its home court through the first two games.
“Cause we’re playing some really, really good basketball,” James said. “Even in, you know, the first two quarters, we build a lead, we didn’t close out the second quarter as well as we would like to and, but, we have a chance. We have a chance to do something we all have been wanting to do all season, and that’s to put together a four-quarter game. And I think we’re right there on the cusp of doing that.”
At the very least, James had ample reason to feel good about the Cavs on the offensive end. James, Kyrie Irving (37 points) and Kevin Love (27 points), combined for the most points they’ve ever had in a postseason game together (89 points). It was also the first time three Cleveland teammates all scored 25 or more in a playoff game.
The Cavs also shot 55.2 percent from the field as a team (41.9 percent from 3) and went 20-for-23 from the foul line (87.0 percent) after making just 14 of 27 free throws in Game 1.
Monday was the 19th straight first-round playoff game that James has won, dating back to May 2012 when his Miami Heat lost to the New York Knicks. Even though his confidence was high, he did not wish to speculate about Indiana’s confidence, or lack thereof, after two near misses in Cleveland.
“Well that’s not our mindset,” James said. “Our mindset is what we can do to help each other to be successful out on the floor. We have a game plan from our coaching staff and we just try to execute that. We can’t worry about what the opponent is feeling or if they feel like they lost composure. That’s not our mindset, Our mindset is what can we do this defensive possession to get a stop. Offensively what we can do to get a bucket. And if we can follow that game plan for as close to 48 minutes as possible, then nine times out of 10 we can be successful.”