James critical of 'lucky' Cavs

A flagrant foul, as Domantas Sabonis of the Indiana Pacers demonstrates, seems to be the only way to stop LeBron James. The Cleveland Cavaliers forward's 46 points on Wednesday, nearly half his team's total, helped level the Eastern Conference series
A flagrant foul, as Domantas Sabonis of the Indiana Pacers demonstrates, seems to be the only way to stop LeBron James. The Cleveland Cavaliers forward's 46 points on Wednesday, nearly half his team's total, helped level the Eastern Conference series at 1-1.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LeBron calls for better defensive effort late in games, coach Lue urges more support for star

CLEVELAND (Ohio) • Even after carrying Cleveland to a 100-97 win over the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday, LeBron James insisted the Cavaliers were "lucky" to level their National Basketball Association (NBA) play-off series at 1-1.

James was at his dominant best at the Quicken Loans Arena, scoring a game-high 46 points as Cleveland bounced back from a 80-98 home loss in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference match-up.

But he was critical of his team's defence in the waning moments, especially when Indiana guard Victor Oladipo got free for a three-point chance that would have tied the score with 27 seconds left.

"We got lucky," said James, who single-handedly outscored the Pacers 16-1 to begin Game 2. "We gave up a wide-open three to Oladipo and he missed it.

"I'd rather be on time and on target than lucky. We got to do a better job late in games and not give up a shot like that that's something he can easily make."

The result at least gave the Cavaliers hope as they head to Indianapolis for Game Three today.

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue knows he needs James' supporting cast to contribute more after watching the forward record his most points in the first five minutes of a game, according to ESPN.

  • 16 

    Points LeBron James notched within the first five minutes of the game against Indiana.

In the 1,362nd NBA game of his career, James had 16 points in four minutes and 55 seconds. By the end of the first quarter, he took 12 shots - he has never taken more in an opening period.

It was in stark contrast to Game 1, when the three-time NBA champions did not attempt a shot until only 1min 52sec left in the first quarter.

"I need to see more out of a lot of guys," said Lue.

Cavaliers forward Kevin Love, who had 15 points when he left the game owing to what ESPN is reporting as a partially torn ligament in his left thumb, said he will be ready to play in Game 3.

Lue made adjustments on Wednesday, starting J.R. Smith and Kyle Korver at the expense of Rodney Hood and Jeff Green.

Korver responded by pouring in 12 points - all from behind the arc - while Smith was solid in defence.

"They put shooters out on the perimeter and LeBron was going to put his head down and go to the basket," Pacers coach Nate McMillan said. "We didn't do a good job tonight of keeping the ball in front of us."

Oladipo topped the Pacers with 22 points on nine-of-18 shooting.

James choked up in a courtside interview when he sent his condolences to San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich after learning of his wife Erin's death at age 67.

The San Antonio News-Express reported that she had a respiratory illness.

The Spurs trail the champions Golden State Warriors 2-0 with Game 3 set for this morning (Singapore time) in San Antonio.

Assistant coach Ettore Messina would likely take over if Popovich is absent, ESPN's Michael C. Wright reported.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 20, 2018, with the headline 'James critical of 'lucky' Cavs'. Print Edition | Subscribe