LeBron James scored 46 points and added 12 rebounds as the Cleveland Cavaliers bounced back from a poor performance in the opener by holding off the Indiana Pacers, 100-97, on Wednesday night to even their Eastern Conference series at one game apiece.
Dazzling from the start, James scored the game’s first 16 points and had 29 at halftime, dominating the way he has in so many previous postseasons.
But in a season in which nothing has been easy for the Cavs, Cleveland was lucky that Indiana’s Victor Oladipo missed a wide-open three-pointer that would have tied it with 27 seconds left.
Kevin Love scored 15, but Cleveland’s All-Star center injured his left hand, the same one he broke earlier this season, with 3:43 left. Love’s status could affect the remainder of this series — and perhaps Cleveland’s season.
Kyle Korver added 12 points, all on 3s, and made several hustling plays for the Cavs.
Oladipo scored 22 — he was in early foul trouble — and Myles Turner 18 for the Pacers, who shocked the Cavs with an overpowering win in Game 1.
Indiana clawed back from an 18-point deficit and was within 95-92 when Oladipo, who scored 32 in the opener, somehow came free but missed maybe his easiest shot in two games. James grabbed the rebound and made three free throws over the final 22 seconds as the Cavs avoided falling behind 2-0 on the series.
Game 3 is Friday night in Indianapolis.
The 33-year-old James was expected to be more aggressive than in Game 1, when he was unusually passive, deferred to teammates.
But James was his unstoppable self again, and there wasn’t a whole lot the Pacers could do about him in the first half.
Cavs coach Tyronn Lue shook up his starting lineup, going with Korver and J.R. Smith over Jeff Green and Rodney Hood. Green didn’t score in the opener and Hood only started because Korver was dealing with a sore right foot.
While the changes weren’t that surprising, Oladipo leaving after 62 seconds was stunning.
Indiana’s lightning-quick guard picked up an offensive foul and then got his second when he knocked over James, who was setting a screen.
With Oladipo off the floor, the Pacers didn’t have an offensive answer to James.
The three-time champion was in attack mode from the start. After not attempting his first shot in the opener until 1:52 remained in the first quarter, he dropped a short jumper just 16 seconds into Game 2.
And he was just getting started.
James made his first five attempts and scored Cleveland’s first 16 points, making a pair of three-pointers and then picking up assists on threes by Love and Korver. James outscored the Pacers 20-18 in the first 12 minutes.
Jazz 102, Thunder 95: Rookie Donovan Mitchell scored 13 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter to help visiting Utah tie its Western Conference playoff series at one win game apiece. Derrick Favors had career playoff bests of 20 points and 16 rebounds for the Jazz, and Ricky Rubio had 22 points, nine assists and seven rebounds in the first playoff win of his seven-year career. Russell Westbrook had 19 points, 13 assists and nine rebounds for the Thunder. Paul George, who scored 36 points in Game 1, finished with 18 on 6-for-21 shooting. Carmelo Anthony scored 17 points, but made just six of 18 shots. Utah outrebounded Oklahoma City 56-46 to take home-court advantage from the Thunder. Game 3 will be Saturday in Utah.