Can the Cavs Defend the Throne?
The defending champs Cleveland Cavaliers are leading the Indiana Pacers 2-0, but yet there are some issues the Cavaliers must address. The Pacers has done an admirable job at making this an entertaining series, and had CJ Miles hit the game-winner in Game 1, this would be a different series.
Through the first two games of this series, the Cavs are shooting a combined .545 (84-154) from the field, including .407 (24-59) from the three-point line. In Game 2 against the Pacers, Cleveland shot 42-76 (.553) from the field, 13-31 (.419) on three-pointers and 20-23 (.870) from the free throw line. The issue isn’t the offense, where LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love were able to abuse the poor defense of the Pacers.
The real question was simply never about if the Cavs were able to advance onto the next round. It is a matter of if they can play their postseason defense that is needed to get through better teams, such as the Washington Wizards and other Eastern Conference foes. The Pacers shot 49% from the field as a team in Game 1, and 51% in Game 2. Quite frankly, the Pacers are hanging in there because the two teams are trading buckets. Paul George has been fantastic, averaging 30.5 points in the series. Indiana was one shot away from winning Game 1 and stormed back with a 10–0 fourth-quarter run to turn a potential Game 2 blowout into a 117–111 loss. The Pacers should be confident as they look to shift and even the series at home.
Silver lining for the Cavs is that this is just the first round. The Cavs can afford to buy some time to find their groove because they are just the superior team. However, that doesn’t mean the Cavs can afford to give the Pacers confidence. It means LeBron and the Cavs must walk into Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Wednesday trying to steal at least 1 game, if not go for the sweep. The extra rest would be beneficial for a team like Cleveland needing to rest and days to practice for the next round. JR Smith suffered a leg injury and Iman Shumpert isn’t fully healthy, as both players are key factors to making a deep postseason run.
Coach Tyronn Lue insisted that the team was ready to flip the on switch come playoff time. That they had a “super-secret” defense ready to activate when the time was needed. Not to say I don’t believe him, but the Cavs should thread carefully to taking care of business sooner, rather than later.