AP

LeBron James, Cavaliers come from 26 down, beat Pacers to take 3-0 lead

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) LeBron James finished with 41 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists, and the Cleveland Cavaliers set an NBA postseason record by erasing a 25-point halftime deficit to beat the Indiana Pacers 119-114 on Thursday night and take a 3-0 lead.

James passed Kobe Bryant for No. 3 on the NBA’s career playoff scoring list and tied another NBA record by winning his 20th consecutive first-round game.

The Cavaliers will try to sweep the series Sunday.

The incredible rally ruined Paul George‘s big night. He had 36 points, a playoff career-high 15 rebounds and nine assists.

Cleveland trailed by 26 in the first half and was still down 74-49 at halftime. The largest halftime deficit overcome to win a playoff game had been 21 points by Baltimore against Philadelphia in 1948.

James scored 13 points in the third quarter to get the Cavs within 91-84.

James now has 5,669 points, 29 ahead of Bryant. He also matched three other ex-Los Angeles Lakers – Magic Johnson, Michael Cooper and James Worthy – for most consecutive first-round wins.

This comeback began with a second straight devastating third-quarter punch from the Cavs.

After Cleveland cut the deficit to 77-62 and then watched Indiana extend the margin to 20, Cleveland finished the quarter on a 17-4 spurt to make it 91-84.

Things only got worse for the Pacers.

George’s 3 with 5:15 to go gave Indiana a 104-103 lead – its last of the game. James answered with a layup out of a timeout and the Cavs never trailed again.

It’s only the second time in the Pacers’ NBA history they have lost the first three games in a best-of-seven series. Indiana has never endured a four-game sweep since joining the NBA.

TIP-INS

Cavaliers: Kyrie Irving Kevin Love, J.R. Smith, Channing Frye all scored 13 points. … Cleveland has won six straight over Indiana. … After scoring 49 points in the first half, the Cavs scored 35 in each of the final two quarters. … Kyle Korver scored more points in two quarters (six) than he did in the first two games (four). He finished with 12.

Pacers: George had 23 points, nine rebounds and five assists, and Lance Stephenson added eight points and five rebounds in the first two quarters. … Indiana scored 37 points in the first quarter, falling just short of a season high (39), then matched that 37 in the second quarter for its highest first-half total of the season. … Coach Nate McMillan made a lineup change, inserting former Cavs player C.J. Miles into the starting rotation. Monta Ellis was relegated to bench duty. … The Pacers drew two defensive three-second calls in the first half.

UP NEXT

On Sunday, Indiana will try to stave off elimination when it hosts Cleveland for Game 4.

More AP NBA: apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball

More AP NBA: apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball

Report: Clippers’ management remains committed to re-signing Blake Griffin

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Maybe Friday night in Utah, maybe not for a few weeks, but the Clippers season is going to end before they reach the conference finals, and with Blake Griffin sidelined by injury. It’s an all-too-familiar scene. It will be six seasons of the Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, Griffin experience in Los Angeles, and they will not have gotten out of the second round (unless you think they can come back on the Jazz from down 3-2, then beat the Warriors).

That has come with a lot of talk about the Clippers breaking up the core. Jordan remains under contract, Paul would be too hard to replace, and that leads to a lot of speculation — inside and outside the league — that Griffin could be on the move this summer, when he becomes a free agent.

That’s not what the Clippers want, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports in a video essay.

Management remains committed to signing him to a long-term deal this summer, league sources tell me.

Doc Rivers has said he wants to bring back this core. Multiple times. His argument is that this is a 50+ win team that is one of the better teams in the NBA, why would you take a big step back rather than look for the tweaks that get the team to a title?

Steve Ballmer has the checkbook deep enough to pay both Paul and Griffin max money (although keeping fellow free agent J.J. Redick as well would be difficult). The Clippers will have one of the highest payrolls in the NBA, and is this team worth that? Especially in a conference where the Mount Everest of Golden State is not going anywhere for a few years, not to mention the Spurs and Rockets will remain good, Utah is on the rise, and so are teams like the Wolves. The Clippers will be a good team that needs a lot of breaks to go their way to really contend — how much would Ballmer pay for that?

The Clippers need to do some soul searching this offseason.

Just don’t be shocked if the result of that is them running this team back again.

Playing through sore knee, Jimmy Butler says “I’m good,” will go in Game 6

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At this point in the season, everyone is banged up. It’s just a matter of degree.

But with Rajon Rondo listed as out for Game 6, the Bulls’ need a big game from Jimmy Butler if they are going to extend this series to a Game 7. And he is not near 100 percent.

In Game 4, Butler banged knees with a Celtic and it impacted him during Game 5, as Vincent Goodwill detailed at CSNChicago.com.

But he could only muster two shots and barely seemed to push off on his left foot—his lead foot, and it hampered what the Bulls could do late as he was their prime fourth-quarter performer.

He couldn’t even go straight up on a jumper over the diminutive Isaiah Thomas without pump-faking, throwing off his rhythm. He wouldn’t elaborate on the injury, although he said it happened during the second half of Game 4 on Sunday night when he collided with a Celtics player.

“I’m good. Everyone’s a little nicked up; I’ll be all right,” Butler said in the locker room.

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune added this detail.

Boston has done a good job of limiting the number of times Isaiah Thomas is exposed on defense, having to cover Wade or Butler. Essentially, the Celtics switch in sort of a matchup zone to keep IT covering a shooter on the wing, even if his man goes up and sets the pick. Zone’s can be exposed (there’s a reason they’re more a change-of-pace rather than a basic set defense in the NBA), but it involves getting into the middle, getting into the paint. Which comes back to driving the ball and pushing off, things that Butler is struggling to do at his usual level.

There are a lot of other factors favoring Boston in Game 6, but if Chicago is going to force a Game 7 Sunday they need Butler to be an All-NBA level player.

Knicks’ Joakim Noah has expected shoulder surgery to repair rotator cuff

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NEW YORK (AP) — Knicks center Joakim Noah has had right shoulder surgery to repair his rotator cuff, a procedure that could sideline him until training camp.

The Knicks say Noah had the surgery Wednesday at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, performed by Dr. David Altchek.

The team didn’t give a timetable for Noah’s recovery, but coach Jeff Hornacek said late in the season that if Noah had the operation, the recovery time could be five months.

Noah had an injury-plagued season that ended early when he was suspended 20 games by the NBA for violating the league’s anti-drug policy. There are still 12 games remaining on the penalty that he will have to serve next season when healthy.

Noah had surgery on his other shoulder last season, limiting him to 29 games in his final season in Chicago before signing a four-year, $72 million deal with New York.

PBT Extra: Pacers offseason moves start with Paul George

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Larry Bird, when not delivering All-Star Game bids, should be spending his time lighting candles and praying in churches all over Indianapolis that Paul George makes an All-NBA team.

If PG13 makes the cut, Bird’s job this summer becomes more clear: Offer George the designated player max extension, get him to sign the deal, then get back to building a contender around him.

If George doesn’t make the cut, things get much tougher for Bird. I discuss all of it in this new PBT Extra.