After the long excruciating regular season, the NBA playoffs begin on Saturday.
The Cleveland Cavaliers begin their pursuit of a second straight NBA championship. They’re the second seed in the Eastern Conference, losing out to the Boston Celtics by two games and posting a 51-31 record.
Their first test comes against the Indiana Pacers, the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference who posted a 42-40 record.
The Cavaliers won three out of the four matchups during the regular season.
- November 16 (Pacers 103-93)
- February 8 (Cavs 132-117)
- February 15 (Cavs 113-104)
- April 2 (Cavs 135-130 2 OT)
The two teams met in the opening round of the 1997-1998 playoffs. The Pacers beat the Cavaliers three games to one in a best of five series. The Pacers went on to lose to the Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Pacers guard Reggie Miller led the way for the Pacers averaging 18.5 points per game in the series. Rik Smits, Dale Davis and Chris Mullin also averaged double figures in scoring for the series. Mark Jackson averaged 11 assists per game.
The Cavaliers were led by Shawn Kemp who averaged 26 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. Then rookie Zydrunas Ilgauskas averaged 17.3 points and 7.5 rebounds and forward Derek Anderson was the only other Cavalier to average in double figures in scoring. It would be the last playoff appearance by Cleveland until 2005-2006.
Matchup to watch
Lebron James vs Paul George
Of course it’s going to be the best player on each team and they both happen to play the same position.
Lebron James is in his twelfth postseason appearance, eighth with Cleveland. He’s looking to make his seventh straight trip to the NBA Finals, a feat not seen since the Boston Celtics of the 1960s.
James averaged 26.4 points, 8.6 rebounds, 8.7 assists per game and shot 54.8% from the field, his best since returning to Cleveland three years ago.
He becomes a different animal in the postseason. He hasn’t lost in the first round in his entire playoff career, something even Michael Jordan can’t say.
He averages 28 points, 8.8 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game in the playoffs.
As for Paul George, it was another All-Star season for the 26 year old. He averaged 23.7 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game. He also averaged 1.6 steals per game which is normal for the three-time member of the All-Defense team.
This is his fifth trip to the postseason. He’s averaged 18.4 points, 7.2 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.7 steals per game in 61 career playoff games.
Who would’ve known that their duel on April 2 was going to be a sneak peek of the first round series.
James had 41 points, 14 rebounds, 11 assists, 2 steals and a block to help Cleveland win.
George in a losing effort had 43 points, 9 rebounds, 9 assists, 3 steals and a block
It’s going to be a great matchup to watch for the series with both players trying to out perform the other.
The Cleveland Cavaliers definitely have the edge over which team has more depth and whose bench is better.
The Cavs have Deron Williams, Iman Shumpert, Kyle Korver, Channing Frye, Derrick Williams and Richard Jefferson.
The Pacers have CJ Miles, Aaron Brooks, Lavoy Allen and Lance Stephenson.
I just look and see Cleveland having more firepower off the bench to help their team more.
Not disrespecting Indiana’s bench at all though. Miles always seems to get hot shooting the ball against Cleveland, some believe there’s still bitterness about the team not retaining him when he became a free agent in 2014.
Brooks has always shown his ability to score throughout his NBA career inside and outside the three point mark.
Allen can be tough inside especially as a rebounder when he’s on the floor.
And then there’s Lance Stephenson. Of course no one can forget his battle with Lebron in the 2014 Eastern Conference Finals when he tried so hard to get in Lebron’s head and went as far as to blowing in his ear.
I’m sure Stephenson was brought back to help Indiana defensively and will be assigned to guard Lebron during the series. And I’m also sure he’ll try to heckle Lebron immensely.
Cleveland in 5
Cleveland has faced some scrutiny during this season but the team believes they can and will “flip the switch” once the postseason starts.
If they’re going to do that, defensively is where it needs to be the most. They can score and have plenty of options to do that but defensively it’s a cause for concern.
Since the All-Star break, they’re 29th out of 30 teams in defensive efficiency. Teams that low shouldn’t even make the playoffs.
Luckily, they have three all stars in Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, and Lebron James. Indiana only has one in Paul George.
It’ll be interesting to see how Cleveland will look to stop Indiana’s frontcourt with Myles Turner and Thaddeus Young. With Tristan Thompson banged up and Kevin Love not that great defensively, Indiana could attack in that aspect.
Kyrie Irving clearly is miles ahead of Jeff Teague in the point guard matchup. No offense to Teague but Irving is superior to him.
Monta Ellis vs JR Smith should be entertaining because both are known to chuck up shots. Only difference is JR’s are more likely to go in.
I expect them to win this series easily but I don’t discredit Indiana and I think they’ll give Cleveland a hard time. I just think Cleveland has too much for Indiana to handle in the end.