The 5 Stages of the Cleveland Cavaliers' Improbable Game 3 Comeback
That, my friends, is one crazy, fish-shaped chart of playoff greatness.
At a glance, though, it's impossible to fully understand the ins and outs of the Cavs' Game 3 victory over Indiana. For that reason, it's helpful to organize their resurgent effort into five stages.
But before we do that, let's set the scene.
For most of the first half, Indiana was dominant. With 50 seconds remaining in the first, they went up 72-46 after a Paul George three. At that point, the Pacers possessed a win probability of 95.29%. Heading into the locker room with a 25-point lead, that figure maxed out at 95.34%.
When the first half ended, though, the Cavs' second-half comeback was just getting started. And boy was it a heavyweight fight to the finish!
Cleveland's First Punch
The Cavaliers emerged from the locker room and started off the third quarter with a 16-5 run in the first four minutes, increasing their probability of winning to 13.95% (up 9.24%) by the 7:52 mark. The Pacers still maintained a 15-point lead at the time.
For a while, this held. More than two-and-a-half minutes later -- after a missed layup from Kyrie Irving -- the Cavaliers were down 81-67 and had a 16.27% likelihood of pulling off the win.
After Cleveland's run, Twitter broke out into "Here come the Cavs" mode, but George answered with a "Not so fast, my friend!"
In a little more than three minutes, George tallied four assists, the last of which led to a Lance Stephenson three with 4:37 left in the third. That sent the Pacers' win probability to 92.35% and pushed their lead to 20 points.
Exactly 20 seconds later, up 87-68, the Pacers' probability grew to 92.45% after George fouled Love on the defensive end. This was more significant than it appeared at the time, though, because on the ensuing free throws, Deron Williams entered the game for Irving.
Cleveland Plays Possum
From there, it was all downhill for Indiana. With Williams in at point, James took over most of the ball-handling duties on offense, as the Cavs defense held the Pacers to four points in the next four-plus minutes.
Then, this happened, instilling a heaping pile of doubt in Pacers fans everywhere.
#NBAPlayoffs @KingJames has arrived. ☔️ pic.twitter.com/ES0cZLi7gu
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) April 21, 2017
Shortly thereafter, with 16 seconds remaining in the third and the Cavs down just six (90-84), James fouled Stephenson. The Pacers' win probability fell to 64.82%, with the Cavaliers owning a probability of 35.18%.
Indiana's Last Gasp
To open up the fourth and final quarter, the Pacers went on a 6-2 run, which put the score at 96-86. At 81.15% with 10:20 left in the game, the Pacers were almost certain to hold serve on their home court.
A lot can happen in 10 minutes, though -- especially when King James is involved.
Cleveland's Final Blow
In the next four minutes, Cleveland out-scored Indiana 14-5, bringing the Cavs to a one-point deficit with 6:05 remaining. It was then that win probability swung in their favor, to 50.15%, despite being down on the scoreboard.
It wasn't much longer until the Cavs were in full control. After an outstanding alley-oop finish by James, they went up 105-104 and saw their likelihood of winning move to 57.08%.
Fast-forward to 2:50 remaining, Cleveland's win probability increased to 79.17% with a 111-107 lead. Less than two minutes later, after a Frye three (yes, Love never returned), the Cavs possessed a seven-point lead and win odds of 99.17%. And they took it home from there, winning by the final score of 119-114.
Not only did LeBron and company take a 3-0 series lead, they all but guaranteed themselves of moving on to the next round.
Before the Cavaliers' Game 3 win, our algorithms gave them a 86.5% likelihood of advancing to the second round. At 32.45%, they were most likely to wrap the series up in five games.
Today, they're about as close as you can get to a lock, at 96.67% to win the series. The most likely outcome (46.94%) is now a 4-0 sweep. So get the brooms ready, Cleveland!