But the Cavaliers put the struggles behind them and fought their way to a 109-108 victory over the Indiana Pacers in Game 1, and then, a 117-111 win in Game 2 of the opening round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena.
After squeaking out the opener by a point, LeBron James and Co. showed more intensity on defense, more swagger in general and won their 10th straight first-round game over the past three seasons.
"We're right there", said Cleveland forward LeBron James, who was strong again in Game 2 with 25 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. The Cavaliers had a 19-point lead in the second half, but the Pacers managed to trim the lead down the five late in the final period before the Cavs held on.
The best basketball player in the entire world isn't talking about how he managed to almost drop a triple-double against the Pacers, or breaking down how Paul George scored 32 points and almost led in to a win in Cleveland.
The turning point of the game was when the Pacers were outscored 33-20 in the third quarter.
"Third quarter, we just lost our composure". Game 3 of the first-round best-of-7 series shifts to IN on Thursday night (Friday AM IN Manila).
Cavs guard J.R. Smith did not return for the second half because of a left hamstring injury.
George's recent criticism comes days after he chided C.J. Miles for taking and missing the game-winning shot attempt in Game 1.
Coming to a young Los Angeles Lakers organization in 2018 as a free agent under new president of basketball operations Magic Johnson would be the best move for Paul George at this stage in his career.
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - After losing both games in Cleveland to the Cavaliers, the Pacers are ready to take advantage of home court this week. "My guys dug in that game and earned the right to be in that game - and they did not even give us a chance", Fizdale told journalists.
Lue said he liked how Love attacked a mismatch.
The Cavs' first two playoff games have shown just how hard defending their National Basketball Association title is going to be. Conversely, fans and media members are still looking for them to flip the switch and, personally, I don't think they're going to do that until they lose their first postseason game. "We needed that spark".
More alarming is what George said after what should have been a Pacers' win. "We need Lance. He's a leader in the locker room and we feed off his energy". Lance is an emotional guy. "His body language has to improve". A lot of it is his heart and his competitiveness.
IN may be in too deep to make a comeback against LeBron, but how the team responds to this situation has big implications for the team even if the Pacers are facing certain elimination.
Still, George's sharp, direct complaints after the first two games caught some off guard.
I personally see IN avoiding a sweep, but unless things really escalate IN these road games, it ends IN five games and no more. And I've kicked it to him and he's made the big shot.
The Pacers tried using Stephenson's strength against Love, and...it really didn't work.