Game 1 on Saturday was already a lot closer than most people expected, with the Cavs pulling out a 109-108 victory, and Paul George looks as hungry as ever to pull out a series victory for his Pacers. His comments regarding taking the last shot were a bit unfounded, considering that he was double teamed and CJ Miles got a good look, but I respect his passion and that he so desperately wants the ball in his hands with the game on the line. Either way, game 1 is a promising sign for a series that looked like a snoozer heading into the playoffs.
Cavs: We came into this year expecting LeBron to coast through the regular season, considering that he is in year 14 with an absurd amount of mileage on him, but instead LeBron put in a career year! He played 37.7 MPG while logging career highs in rebounds (8.6) and assists (8.7), and it was desperately needed, because the Cavaliers struggled mightily after the all star game. Much of their stemmed from their lackluster defensive effort, which was ranked 22nd, good enough for dead last among playoff teams. Their bench is predicated around 3pt shooting, which has created a lethal offense around LeBron, but at the expense of having players with defensive abilities (i.e. Richard Jefferson, Channing Frye, Kyle Korver). This is nearly the same roster that won the NBA Finals last year (minus Delly & Mosgov) but one can’t help to think the defensive struggles and lack of depth are deficiencies too severe to overcome. It’s incredibly difficult to pick against a team led by LeBron James, but this year’s Cavaliers seem to be the best bet not to make a repeat run at the Finals.
Pacers: The re-signing of Lance Stephenson gave an otherwise totally uninteresting regular season for the Pacers a little spark. Once upon a time, Lance led the entire league in triple doubles (5)while on the Pacers, and Larry Legend is hoping he can find some of that magic yet again. If it seems like a crazy idea to bring a rotation player onto a playoff team just a few weeks away from the postseason, it is, but it’s something that was necessary for the organization. Paul George has been openly voicing his frustrations with the franchise this season, so the Pacers need to do anything and everything to demonstrate to their star player that they are committed to building a contending roster around him. Unfortunately for them, no one other than Myles Turner and maybe Glenn Robinson seem to be promising pieces long term, and the likes of Thad Young, Jeff Teague and Monta Ellis might be the best Indiana can offer for the near future. At its current form, this is a strangely constructed roster featuring a mix of interesting pieces that do not come together to form a cohesive product. Paul George will have to have an out of body experience to bring this team anywhere near the 2nd round.
Keys to the Series
- Will Paul George be able to shoulder the responsibility of guarding LeBron James will also having to create the majority of the offense for this haples offensive Pacers team? If we’re lucky, Lance will once again employ his troll tactics to try to get inside of LeBron’s head.
- Will Myles Turner be effectively utilized by Nate McMillan on the offensive end? Turner is prime to take advantage of a thin frontline for the Cavs, and if he gets Thompson into foul trouble early, watch out.
- Does Lance Stephenson make any kind of significant impact for the Pacers? If Lance can make some plays this series, the Cavs will have limited resources to try and guard him.
- Are the Cavs going to continue struggling on defense, or will they flip the switch like some said they would come playoff time? If the concerns are real, then they are going to have one hell of a time making it back to the promised land.
Prediction: Cavs in 5