CLEVELAND — Kyrie Irving scored 37 points, Kevin Love added 27 and the Cleveland Cavaliers avoided another fourth-quarter collapse in Game 2, beating the Indiana Pacers 117-111 on Monday night to take a 2-0 lead in the series.
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.
However, they nearly blew an 18-point lead in the fourth as the Pacers got within four before Cleveland closed it out at the line.
James added 10 rebounds and seven assists, but had eight of Cleveland’s 19 turnovers.
Game 3 is Thursday night.
Paul George scored 32 and Jeff Teague 23 for Indiana, which showed more fight, but now has a steep hill to climb to get back in the series. Cleveland is 12-0 when starting 2-0 in the postseason.
The Cavs vowed they would play better after their near-disaster in Game 1 and they backed up their talk, delivering the kind of performance that was routine last season but very rare in 2017.
Love scored 10 straight and drew a charging foul on Lance Stephenson in a span of two minutes as the Cavs opened an 89-70 lead. Irving closed the quarter by draining a 3-pointer over Stephenson and the All-Star made sure Indiana’s antagonizing guard knew about it, yapping in his direction long after the horn sounded.
The Cavs still led 109-91 with 6:09 left, but the Pacers ripped off 13 straight points and were within 113-109 when George hit a 3-pointer with 20 seconds left.
RAPTORS: Kyle Lowry is experiencing playoff deja vu, only with a twist. The All-Star point guard for Toronto says his latest Game 1 failure doesn’t just feel familiar, it’s even worse than those that came before.
Lowry scored four points in Saturday’s 97-83 loss to Milwaukee, connecting on just 2 of 11 field-goal attempts and finishing 0 for 6 from 3-point range.
His disappointing performance brought back memories of the series-opening struggles Lowry faced last year, including 3-for-13 efforts against both Indiana in the first round and Miami in the second, and a 4-for -14 effort against Cleveland in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.
HAWKS-WIZARDS: Atlanta forward Paul Millsap got a taste Sunday of what the Washington Wizards have planned for him in their first-round playoff series.
Now he’s promising to dish it back.
Markieff Morris told Millsap to shut up during Game 1, escalating a physical showdown between the power forwards. Morris and Millsap exchanged heated words before the teams retreated to their locker rooms at halftime, and more fireworks could be coming in Game 2.
Millsap took issue with the way Morris and the Wizards tried to overpower him in the Hawks’ 114-107 loss.
“The difference in the game is we were playing basketball and they were playing MMA,” Millsap said.