It was more nerve-wracking than they would’ve liked, but Deron Williams and the Cleveland Cavaliers secured a Game 1 victory over the Indiana Pacers.
D-Will knocked down a 3-pointer with 9:06 to play in the fourth quarter, giving Cleveland a 10-point lead, but the Pacers responded with a 17-5 run to take a 105-103 advantage with 3:31 remaining. The Cavs regained the lead a minute later on Kyrie Irving’s 19-footer with 2:31 to go. and free throws by J.R. Smith and LeBron James gave Cleveland a 109-105 lead with 1:16 on the clock.
After a timeout, the Pacers turned the ball over by way of an Irving steal, but Indy’s Myles Turner raced back in time to block Irving’s layup. Smith secured the offensive board for Cleveland but an errant pass attempting intended for Irving gave it right back to the visiting team.
Paul George hit his sixth 3-pointer of the night on the next possession to cut the Cleveland lead to one with 40 seconds remaining. After James missed a chance to ice the game with a three of his own, the Pacers called a quick timeout to draw up a final play.
That play was meant for George, but he was quickly doubled by Smith and James and was forced to give it up to C.J. Miles, whose midrange look was short as the buzzer sounded.
“We wanted to get the ball out of (George’s) hands, make somebody else try to beat us and live with the results,” said James of the final play.
It was an offensive game all night with both teams shooting over 49 percent and hitting 11 threes, with the Cavs hitting 70 percent from the field at one point in the first half.
While the final margin was one point, the Cavs can look to the free throw line, where they went 14-of-27, for the cushion they’d hoped to carry through the fourth quarter.
“We had a lot of easy missed free throws as well as layups that could have swayed the game and given us the cushion that we needed, but we just have a resilient group,” said Irving. “We believe in one another, and it was a good first playoff win of a new journey—the 2017 playoffs.”
Deron finished his 10 minutes with five points on 2-of-4 shooting and a slick behind-the-back assist that went to Channing Frye for a three in the second quarter.
The Cavs threatened to pull away multiple times in the first half but Indiana always had an answer to keep the game close. Only with a 10-0 run at the end of the third punctuated by a thunderous dunk by James did the Cavs gain some separation going into the fourth.
The series resumes Monday in Cleveland where Game 2 tips off at 7 p.m. EST on TNT.