James scores 45 as Cleveland advance in NBA playoffs

LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers (L) tries to get around Lance Stephenson of the Indiana Pacers
AFP

Los Angeles (AFP) – LeBron James scored 45 points to lead the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 105-101 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Sunday and into the second round of the NBA playoffs.

Facing elimination in the first round for the first time, James produced his third 40-point game of the series.

Humbled 121-87 by the Pacers in game six, Cleveland wrapped up the best-of-seven Eastern Conference series four games to three and set up a second-round clash with East top seeds Toronto.

James’s determination was evident from the opening tip-off.

He made his first seven shots from the floor and finished the first half with 26 points, five assists and four rebounds.

The Cavaliers pulled down 11 offensive rebounds in the first half and while Indiana shot a respectable 54.8 percent in the half but their 31 attempts from the floor were 17 fewer than Cleveland’s.

Leading by as many a 14 in the second quarter, Cleveland took a 54-43 lead into the break.

But the third-quarter woes that have bedevilled them surfaced again.

After surrendering just one turnover in the first half, Cleveland coughed up seven, leading to 10 Pacers points, in the third period.

Indiana took their first lead with 7:13 left in the third when Bojan Bogdanovic’s three-pointer gave them a 59-58 edge.

A determined Victor Oladipo scored 14 of his 30 points in the quarter, but Cleveland emerged with a 76-74 lead going into the final frame after James departed for the locker room with little more than a minute remaining, reportedly to address leg cramping.

The Cavs wouldn’t surrender the lead in the final period. James returned and they stretched their lead to as many as 12 in the final period.

Oladipo’s driving layup cut the deficit to four points with 50.1 seconds remaining but Cleveland, who had 15 points from Tristan Thompson, 14 from Kevin Love and 11 apiece from JR Smith and George Hill, held on.

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