Indianapolis — The Indiana Pacers kept insisting this team was different.
Anyone who doubted them coming into the playoffs understands now.
On Friday, the one-year anniversary of a historic playoff collapse against Cleveland, Indiana flipped the script by rallying from a 17-point halftime deficit and held on for a 92-90 victory over the Cavaliers to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. They can take command of the series by winning Sunday on their home court.
“Last year’s team, I don’t know if we would have gone down 17, I don’t know if we would have overcome it,” forward Thaddeus Young said. “But this team, we’ve been resilient all year. We’ve overcome adversity.”
And on Friday they did it against a Cavaliers team that was 39-0 in the regular season when leading after three quarters.
Bojan Bogdanovic scored 19 of his playoff career-high 30 points in the second half, finishing 7 of 9 on 3-pointers. Victor Oladipo added 18 points, six rebounds and seven assists.
Bogdanovic also spent most of the game defending LeBron James, who finished with 28 points, 12 rebounds, eight assists and six turnovers. He joined Michael Jordan as the only players in league history with 100 double-doubles in the postseason. Jordan had 109.
James almost single-handedly rallied his team twice from seven-point deficits in the final 3½ minutes.
The three-time defending Eastern Conference champs were outscored 52-33 over the final 24 minutes.
“We were more aggressive in the first half. We had tempo, they didn’t,” James said. “Then they were more aggressive in the second half, they had tempo, and we didn’t.”
Young is one of the few players still around from the record-breaking, 26-point collapse last year, which is one reason coach Nate McMillan has continually opted not to discuss it.
After the Pacers cut the 57-40 halftime deficit to 69-63 at the end of three, the Pacers continued to apply pressure and eventually Bogdanovic finally broke through with a four-point play that gave Indiana an 81-77 lead with 6:10 left. It was Indiana’s first lead since midway through the first quarter.
He was far from finished.
Bogdanovic knocked down another 3 to make it a seven-point game.
Then, after James countered with seven straight to tie the score, Bogdanovic scored on a layup and hit his final 3 before Young’s layup made it 91-84 with 53 seconds to go.
James and Kevin Love made back-to-back 3s to make it 91-90, and Cleveland got one more chance after Darren Collison missed the second free throw with 5 seconds left.
But J.R. Smith’s 38-foot heave came up short.
“It’s great to be on the other end,” Myles Turner said. “You never want to get down that far and have to try and come back. To be down in that position is not ideal. The resiliency of this team, it’s unbelievable.”
More Eastern Conference
(At) Washinton 122, Toronto 103: Bradley Beal heeded his coach’s plea to “do his job” by scoring 21 of his 28 in the first half, his All-Star backcourt running mate John Wall delivered 28 points and 14 assists, and the Wizards beat the Raptors in an occasionally heated game to cut their Eastern Conference first-round playoff series deficit to 2-1.
After letting the Raptors grab the first 2-0 series lead in franchise history, the Wizards came home and checked off every box coach Scott Brooks presented. They got Beal more involved after he made only three shots in Game 2; they actually led after the first quarter, 30-29; they played with enough defensive focus to get produce 19 turnovers by Toronto, leading to 28 points for Washington.
Add it all up, and it was a rare recent victory for Washington, which had lost seven of eight games dating to the regular season.
DeMar DeRozan led Toronto with 23 points on 10-for-22 shooting one game after scoring 37, and Kyle Lowry had 19 points and eight assists.
The start initially had the look of “Here we go again,” as Toronto moved ahead 27-18. The Raptors, after all, outscored Washington by an average of 11 points in the first period over Games 1 and 2. But this time, Washington responded with a 12-point run capped by Beal’s 3 with under a minute left.
Beal scored 12 in the quarter a day after he, Wall and Brooks met to discuss ways to get the All-Star shooting guard more involved in the offense. Entering Friday, Beal was averaging only 14 points in the playoffs, well below his 22.6 average during the regular season.
“I’d like to see him be more aggressive,” Brooks said before Friday’s game. “I can do my job, but he’s going to have to do his job.”
The game was filled with some tense moments.
(At) Milwaukee 116, Boston 92: Khris Middleton scored 23, Giannis Antetokounmpo added 19 and the Bucks used a dominating first half to overwhelm the Celtics, narrowing their deficit in the first-round playoff series to 2-1.
Eric Bledsoe and Jabari Parker each added 17 for the energized Bucks, who held the Celtics without a field goal for nearly an 11-minute stretch of the first half.
Milwaukee found its defense after a disheartening 14-point loss in Game 2, getting contributions from up and down the roster.
Backup center Thon Maker scored 14 points and blocked five shots. Pesky guard Matthew Dellavedova, a veteran of a championship run with the Cleveland Cavaliers, helped hold young Celtics point guard Terry Rozier to nine points on 2-of-7 shooting.
Al Horford scored 16 for the Celtics, who fell behind by 23 at halftime and got no closer than 76-62 with 3:06 left in the third quarter on Jayson Tatum’s 3-pointer.
The game was so well in hand that the Bucks closed out the victory even with Antetokounmpo on the bench for much of the fourth quarter with five fouls. Middleton had eight points in the fourth.