Bloodied and beaten, LeBron James and Cavaliers drop Game 6 to Pacers

AP Photo/Darron Cummings
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LeBron James looked human.

More than any other time since he left Cleveland in 2010, his team can’t afford him to.

Thaddeus Young bloodied him with an errant elbow. Victor Oladipo dunked on him. Lance Stephenson taunted him relentlessly.

And, when LeBron usually delivers a knockout punch, he failed to finish off the Pacers.

LeBron lost for the first time in his last 12 closeout games, the Cavaliers falling 121-87 to Indiana in Game 6 Friday.

At 3-3, this is already the worst first-round series by a LeBron team. He won his previous 12, most via sweep and only two requiring six games.

He’ll try to avoid his first first-round elimination in Game 7 Sunday in Cleveland. Home teams have won 80% of Game 7s, but home teams in series between No. 4 and No. 5 seeds (like this one) are just 3-4 in Game 7s. That’s a small sample, but it speaks to the competitiveness in even matchups like this.

And Indiana is certainly making it competitive.

Oladipo (28 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists and four steals) was the best player on the court. Six of his teammates scored double figures in the most lopsided win in Pacers history.

On the other hand, it’s becoming only more clear – as if it weren’t already – LeBron must singlehandedly carry the Cavs to the second round if they’re going to get here. He has scored 46, 32 and 44 points in wins and 24, 28 and now 22 points in losses this series.

Neither LeBron nor Oladipo played in the fourth quarter, the result clear much sooner. Stephenson ran on court to strum an air guitar during third-quarter play, either believing a timeout had been called or just not caring.

The Pacers are playing loose, hard and effectively. They’ve outscored Cleveland by 44 in this series.

The Cavaliers should be favored Sunday. But Indiana has pushed and pushed and pushed and isn’t stopping.