After a disastrous first half that saw the Cleveland Cavaliers trail by as many as 26 points, somehow the defending champs came away with a 3-0 series lead. LeBron James put up 41 points in a triple-double, as the Cavs rallied from the largest halftime deficit (25 points) in postseason history for a 119-114 win over the Indiana Pacers. Cleveland scored 35 points in each of the final two quarters, while holding the Pacers to just 40 points total after halftime. It'll officially go down as the third-largest comeback in playoff history, but the previously largest halftime deficit that was overcome was 21 points in 1948. James also added 13 rebounds and 12 assists, and moved past Kobe Bryant for third on the all-time postseason scoring list. On the other end, Paul George once again did his thing with 36 points and a playoff career-high 15 rebounds, while finishing an assist shy of a triple-double. Although, a majority of that production came in the first two quarters. For LeBron, it was his 20th consecutive first-round victory, tying a record with Magic Johnson, James Worthy, and Michael Cooper. Game 4 of the series is Sunday in Indiana and with a win, not only do the Cavs complete the sweep, but James will hold the longest first-round win streak under the current playoff format that began in 1984.
Predators Complete Shocking Sweep of Blackhawks
The Nashville Predators caught the Chicago Blackhawks off guard by shutting them out the first two games at home, but they proved on their home ice that it was not a fluke. Pekka Rinne recorded 30 saves, while Roman Josi scored twice, leading the Predators to a 4-1 win over the Blackhawks, completing the first-round sweep. The Blackhawks are now the first top seed to fall in the first round since the Vancouver Canucks were upset by the eventual Stanley Cup Champion, Los Angeles Kings, in 2012. It is the second consecutive first-round exit for Chicago, who recorded the second-highest point total in franchise history with 109 in the regular season. Nashville becomes the first team to sweep a top seed in the first round under the current playoff format, which began in 1994. The Predators had struggled against their division rivals during the regular season, going 1-4 against the 'Hawks, but will now advance to face the winner of the St. Louis-Minnesota series. The Blues currently hold a 3-1 series lead in that one.
Penguins Advance Past Blue Jackets in Game 5
After the Columbus Blue Jackets avoided a sweep in Game 4 to keep their season alive, the Pittsburgh Penguins returned home Thursday night to put an end to the series. Marc-Andre Fleury made 49 saves, while getting goal support from Sidney Crosby and company, in a 5-2 Game-5 victory. Bryan Rust scored twice for Pittsburgh and now has seven goals in nine career elimination games. Phil Kessel and Scott Wilson also found the back of the net, helping Fleury record his 59th career playoff win. William Karlsson and Boone Jenner each scored, while Sergei Bobrovsky had 27 saves in the Jackets' final game of the year. This comes after they posted a franchise-high 108 points in the regular season, but they surrendered 20 goals in the five games against their division rivals. The Penguins will battle the winner of the Toronto-Washington series, which is currently tied at two apiece. That second-round series will begin next week.