Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Indiana Pacers Game 5 Recap: LeBron’s Buzzer-Beater Wins It

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(Cleveland, OH) — LeBron James capped an incredible night in incredible fashion by hitting on a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Cleveland Cavaliers a dramatic 98-95 over the Indiana Pacers in Game 5 of their first-round playoff series at Quicken Loans Arena on Wednesday night. The victory gives the Cavaliers the opportunity to clinch the series with a win on the road on Friday night.

The Cavaliers had held an 86-75 advantage with 10:39 remaining and then led 95-89 with 4:38 to go in the game. At that point, the Pacers kept chipping away until they tied things up with 33.6 seconds left. James then committed a turnover with 26.3 seconds to go, but then redeemed himself by blocking Victor Oladipo‘s layup attempt and quickly calling a timeout with three seconds left.

One indication of the Cavs’ struggles down the stretch was the fact that James’ game-winner from the top of the key was the only Cavs field goal in the final 7:19 of action.

James finished his night with 44 points and picked up a double-double by grabbing 10 rebounds. He also added eight assists while going a spotless 15-for-15 from the foul line. The only other Cavaliers to score in double figures were Kyle Korver, who notched 19 and hit for five 3-pointers, and Kevin Love, who picked up a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. As a team, the Cavs missed only one of their 27 free-throw attempts.

“Just give me the ball,” James told his teammates prior to his game-winner. “They had a foul to give and I wanted to get the shot off quick because I knew we didn’t have any more timeouts. So I was able to turn and get to my spot. It was like deja vu from a regular-season game we had with Minnesota.”

While J.R. Smith had a brutal night from the field, missing all eight of his shot attempts, his defense on Oladipo was crucial to the win. On the evening, Oladipo hit on just 2-of-15 from the field, including 1-of-7 from long-range.

“J.R. was fantastic. He ‘s been fantastic the last two games,” James said. “We just try to be his rearview.”

The Cavaliers struggled in the early going, hitting on 2-of-11 from the field to start the game. That allowed the Pacers to use an 8-2 run to take a 15-9 lead. While Cleveland then ran off six consecutive points of its own, Indiana answered back with a 10-2 run to take its largest lead of the period with 2:28 left in the first. James then scored on four straight baskets, which capped the scoring and made it a 25-23 game in favor of the Pacers after 12 minutes of play.

“We just didn’t attack early,” Cleveland head coach Tyronn Lue said after the game. “That’s what kind of got us bogged down.”

Reversing course from their past three games where they were outscored 72-48 during the third quarter, the Cavaliers went from trailing by seven at the half to leading by eight by the end of the period at 81-73. Solid defense was a focal point of the Cavs’ push, which saw them lead by as many as 12, as the Pacers connected on just 5-of-16 from the field and committed more turnovers in one period than they did the entire first half.

“I thought our coaching staff did a good job of challenging our guys to come out strong in the third quarter,” Lue said. “We were able to get stops and play with pace.”

For the second consecutive game, the Cavaliers were without the services of veteran point guard George Hill, who sat out the game due to continuing back trouble.

“We’ve got to play 48 (minutes),” Jose Calderon said. “If we can put those four quarters together, we’ll be in good shape.”

The Cavaliers will have the opportunity to advance to the second round of the playoffs with a win at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on Friday night. Tipoff is set for just after 7 p.m. ET.

“We gotta be mentally strong, like we were tonight,” James said about winning on the road.

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Brad Sullivan is a lead writer for Cavaliers Nation. He has spent much of life in the Cleveland, Ohio area, and has remained a Cavalier fan from their 1970 beginnings through the return of LeBron James. While that fandom was sorely tested during the Reign of Error known simply by one word, Stepien, that overall historical perspective will be part of his writing for Cavaliers Nation in the months ahead.