LeBron James has been the first-round king for 12 years.
On Sunday night, he needed Kyle Korver’s 3-point shooting to put him in position to extend his reign.
The two combined for all of Cleveland’s points in a late 10-2 run, helping the Cavaliers to a 104-100 victory over the Indiana Pacers to even the series at 2. James drew boos from the crowd after flipping the ball up the court to run out the clock.
“You don’t ever want to go down 3-1 against anybody, no matter if it’s the first round or if you’re fortunate enough to get all the way to the finals,” James said. “It’s just too difficult.”
James finished with 32 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists and another crowning achievement — his 100th career playoff game with 30 or more points, second all-time to Michael Jordan.
This has been no typical series for James, who started the playoffs with an NBA-record 21 consecutive wins in the first round.
He’s already seen the Pacers go wire-to-wire in Game 1, miss a potential tying 3-pointer in the last 35 seconds of Game 2, rally from a 17-point deficit to win Game 3 and erase a 16-point, first-half deficit to take the lead early in the fourth.
This one looked and felt a lot like the three previous games — tough and physical down to a confusing sequence in the final seconds when Lance Stephenson was whistled for wrestling Jeff Green to the court while hoping for a jump ball.
Indiana still led 93-91 with 4:28 to go on Sunday.
Then James and Korver reverted to their old ways.
Korver’s 3 with 3:48 left made it 94-93, James followed with a layup, Korver knocked down another 3 and James added another layup to give the Cavs a 101-95 lead with 1:52 left.
Indiana never recovered.
Korver wound up with 18 points and four 3s to give him 200 in his postseason career.
And without those two 3s, James knew he might have been staring at a 3-1 deficit at the earliest stage of the playoffs in his career.
“He’s one of the all-time leaders in 3-pointers made,” James said. “His four 3s were huge. We needed every last one of them, obviously.”
The Pacers, meanwhile, lamented a missed opportunity.
Despite having seven players score in double figures, making more baskets, grabbing more offensive rebounds and matching Cleveland’s 12 3s, Indiana missed six of its last eight shots.
Domantas Sabonis scored 19 points for Indiana. Myles Turner and Victor Oladipo each had 17, though Oladipo was just 5 of 20 from the field.
Only this time, as in Game 2, Indiana couldn’t quite finish.
“We just didn’t play the game the right way,” Pacers coach Nate McMillan said. “You get into these games, these emotional games, and you’re so pumped up — sometimes you try do some things yourself. Usually, those things don’t work.”
After the Cavs took a 49-33 lead with 6:01 left in the first half, the Pacers used a 10-2 run to get within 60-50 at the half then opened the second half on a 10-2 spurt to make it 62-50.
Cleveland extended the lead 76-68 lead with 4:41 left in the third only to watch the Pacers score the last six points of the quarter, tie the score on Lance Stephenson’s 11-footer to open the fourth and then take the lead on Sabonis’ 3-pointer with 10:51 left.
From that point, it was an all-out slugfest that included James getting called for a technical foul with 6:12 to play.
Cavaliers: James extended his record of games with 30 points, five rebounds and five assists to 75. … J.R. Smith scored 12 points and Jordan Clarkson each scored 12 points. … Kevin Love had five points and 11 rebounds. … Cleveland outscored Indiana 17-7 on fast-break points and became the first team in the series to top 100 points.
Pacers: Have lost six of their last eight playoff games against Cleveland. … Thad Young has 12 points and a playoff career-high 16 rebounds. … Indiana committed only nine turnovers but was outscored 17-13 off turnovers.
Cavaliers point guard George Hill missed Game 4 with back spasms, an injury he first suffered during Game 1 and aggravated during Game 3.
It’s not clear whether he’ll be ready to play Wednesday, either.
“There’s just not a lot of movement there,” coach Tyronn Lue said before the game.
With Hill out, the Cavs plugged veteran Jose Calderon into the starting lineup. Calderon finished with two points and one assist after failing to enter Game 3.
THEY SAID IT
Cavaliers: “We came on the road in a hostile environment and got a big win after a letdown in the last game,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. “When you lose a tough game, it’s tough to bounce back, especially on the road. It’s a tribute to our guys and their character.”
Pacers: “We need to calm down and execute,” McMillan said when asked what needs to change. “You play the game together and you play for each other. We weren’t connected (in Game 4).”
Game 5 will be played Wednesday in Cleveland.