NBA Playoffs: Cavaliers vs Pacers Preview
This memorable NBA season has come to a close, where the defending champions Cleveland Cavaliers will now open their title defense against Paul George and the Indiana Pacers. The Cavaliers are still the heavy favorites to win the Eastern Conference finals despite their recent struggles where the Pacers couldn’t have found their groove at a better time. Since the All-Star break, the Cavaliers are 29th in defensive efficiency rating, just ahead of the league-worst Lakers. Chemistry will also come to play, where the Cavaliers limped to the playoffs, losing 14 of 24 games combined in March and April. LeBron and co. simply never got up to full speed, losing key players Kevin Love and JR. Smith for much of the season. Not having the 1st seed isn’t a big deal for the Cavs, but the road back to the finals won’t be an easy cake walk this year.\
Jeff Teague vs Kyrie Irving – Both guards are banged up right now. Neither is likely to stop each other, but Kyrie’s flaring knee will be a thing to monitor throughout the series.
LeBron James vs Paul George – Paul George got his wish and gets to matchup with LeBron. PG13 might be able to go toe-to-toe with LeBron offensively, LeBron has the edge in his all-around playmaking ability, something PG likely won’t be able to replicate. Careful what you wish for.
Tristian Thompson vs Myles Turner – The experienced rebounding machine in Tristan Thompson will look to exploit sophomore Myles Turner. In order for Indiana to have a chance in this series, Turner has to lock in defensively, stay out of foul trouble, while also being able to provide the necessary offense. A lot to ask for a player whose going into the playoffs for the first time.
The Pacers are 13-28 on the road this season, the worst amongst all playoff teams this year. They need to steal a game at Quicken Loans Arena, where the Cavs are 31-10. While it’s not impossible, I’m not convinced the Pacers can steal a game on the road. Having a star in George can be reassuring for Pacers fans, where PG can get hot and give the Pacers a puncher’s chance.
The Cavaliers certainly didn’t close the season right, surrendering a 26-point fourth-quarter lead to the Hawks earlier this week. The Pacers on the other hand, has won 5 straight coming into the postseason, including 3 playoff teams in the Raptors, Bucks, and Hawks. Will there be an “On/Off switch” for the Cavs? Will Indiana finally play to their potential like some predicted early in the season? Perhaps this will be the year LeBron finally shows his age and the forty-one thousand minutes he has logged? Can the Pacers get enough scoring outside of George?
But this is not the series that the Cavaliers will be tested against. They are too experienced to let this Indiana squad take them further than six games. Having experience and battle-tested veterans in your locker room is underrated in the playoffs, where every possession is critical. Lance Stephenson may have landed back in a place where they can maximize his abilities, but he is not someone LeBron will have trouble carving up. Cavaliers will be rested and healthy come Saturday, and they will take care of business at home, simply because they are the superior team. Quite frankly, a player like LeBron James can win a series by himself.
Cavaliers in 6.