Frantic first round unusual for LeBron, Cavs


James, Cavaliers

pushed by Pacers

Associated Press

INDEPENDENCE

By now, LeBron James is usually getting some rest in the NBA playoffs.

The Pacers are making him work much harder than he has in years.

After splitting the first four games, Indiana and Cleveland will meet tonight in the critical Game 5 of a first-round series that has been unpredictable, uneven and for James, unusual.

This first round hasn’t been the norm for the three-time champion.

While he’s 12-0 in the opening round, before the Cavs dropped Game 1 to the Pacers at home, James had never lost a playoff opener. In fact, James came in with a 21-game winning streak in first-round games and this will be his first Game 5 in Round 1 since 2012 when he was with Miami.

The Cavs and Pacers aren’t the only ones in a tussle in the Eastern Conference as Washington and Toronto resume their series in Canada tied 2-2. Things aren’t quite as tight In the West as Utah holds a 3-1 lead over a fraying Oklahoma City team, and Houston, which dropped 50 points in one quarter on Monday night, can eliminate Minnesota.

Cleveland’s 104-100 win in Game 4 brought relief to Cavs fans and James, who had been getting little offensive help from his teammates. A dependable No. 2 scoring option has been issue all season, primarily because Kyle Irving is no longer around to take pressure off James.

But in Game 4 , Kyle Korver stepped up in the second half and knocked down four 3-pointers and the Cavs buckled down defensively in the closing minutes to avoid a 3-1 hole.

“We all know the narrative around us, it is what it is,” Korver said after practice on Tuesday. “It’s Bron and we’re all trying to make it work for him.”

James has been his usual self, averaging 32.5 points, 11 rebounds and 8 assists in the series. But only Kevin Love (12.0), who has been slowed by a sprained left thumb, and J.R. Smith (10.0) are averaging double-digits for Cleveland.

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