For the Cavs, it’s important that everyone who plays contributes positively in some way but this first series against the Indiana Pacers, and the entire playoffs are going to come down to the way James plays.
Can it be done? The Cavs knew this would be a challenge, that they would have to learn on the fly. I’m a little nervous about the first-round series with Indiana. That surge started with two J.R. Smith 3-pointers, triggering what wound up being a 13-1 run to make it a 70-63 game with 1:06 remaining in the quarter. It’s not surprising, since they have what many consider to the best player on the planet. The Pacers are led by Nate McMillan, one of the most underrated coaches in the National Basketball Association. IN came in 15-6 in the playoffs when it wins the opener. The Pacers easily could have won the game by a bigger margin had they cashed in at the charity stripe and capitalized more on Cleveland’s miscues. Brad Stevens will throw all sorts of looks at the young guys and while the absence of Irving and Gordon Hayward will hang over the team, these Celtics won’t start looking ahead to next year without a fight.
After three seasons in Orlando and previous year in OKC, the former second overall pick in 2013-14 averaged season highs nearly entirely across the board and finished as the only player in the league who averaged more than 20.0 points, 5.0 boards, 4.0 assists and 2.0 steals per game.
So for the fourth time in recent memory the Pacers will be faced with the task of facing a LeBron-led team.
Suddenly, this series has a feel of the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals.
Game 3 back home is Friday night at 7.
It’s a rematch of last year’s playoff but hopefully not the same result as the Cavaliers swept the Pacers in four games. Cleveland won 4-0 by an average of four points per game.
So as fate would have it, James is in the way, again. IN is a talented team with quality scoring depth and this one should be no different.
Hall of Fame coach Pat Riley’s philosophy in the playoffs was: “You rotate eight players”. It’s hard to even decide which player is the Cavs’ third-best, and it’s probably an answer that changes with every game. Those Pacers, though, didn’t have Oladipo or the balance of this Indy squad, which may lack experience but not confidence.
This is because the Indiana Pacers have often struggled to score this season. What I am saying is that this years playoff matchup is different.
The best way to ensure scoring runs is to get out on the break and play at a high tempo.
“As long as my teammates have my back, I’ll control what I can control”, he said.
“I think the biggest thing for us defensively is we just got to talk really early, loud and continuous – ELC – and we got to call our coverages out early and continuous, and we all got to be on the same page”, Lue said.