Los Angeles: LeBron James scored 45 points to lead the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 105-101 game seven 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. He added nine rebounds, seven assists and four steals and got solid support from his teammates as Cleveland booked a second-round clash with Eastern Conference top seeds Toronto starting on Tuesday.
"I just try to do whatever it takes to help us win. I felt like I wanted to do that again in this series," said James, who is now 5-2 in game sevens.
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 because of leg cramping.
Despite that scare, the Cavs wouldn't surrender the lead in the final period. They led by nine when James returned and 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 James responded with a layup and Cleveland, who had 15 points from Tristan Thompson, 14 from Kevin Love and 11 apiece from JR Smith and George Hill, held on.
'Nothing like a game 7'
Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue again shook up his starting lineup, relying on James, Love, Thompson, Smith -- all holdovers from the club's last three Finals teams -- along with Kyle Korver.
"We started the game with the guys that have been in big games before," James said.
He praised Thompson's performance, which included 10 rebounds, as "magnificent" and said the return of Hill, who missed three games with back spasms, provided a much-needed lift.
"There's nothing like a game seven," Thompson said. "Game seven separates the men from the boys."
They provided plenty of support for the team's superstar, who continued to rack up records.
He became the career playoff leader in steals when he picked off a pass in the second quarter. James had entered the contest tied with former Chicago Bulls great Scottie Pippen (395) atop the all-time post-season list.
James also became the first player to score 20 or more points 200 times in the playoffs.
"He put us on his back," Lue said, "just scoring the basketball, facilitating, being aggressive. I think getting their bigs in foul trouble a lot throughout the course of this series by attacking the basket, just getting to the free-throw line put pressure on their defense.
"He did it all for us this series."
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Updated Date: Apr 30, 2018 11:35:35 IST