Cleveland Cavaliers (2nd Seed) vs Indiana Pacers (7th Seed)
Eastern Conference Playoffs – Round One, Game Two
UPCOMING MILESTONES: LeBron James is 37 points away from claiming the 3rd most in NBA playoffs history – passing Kobe Bryant. In addition, with two more rebounds, LeBron James will have pulled down the 8th most in playoff history (passing Robert Parish), and with two steals, he’ll have made the 3rd most in post-season history (passing Magic Johnson). With 19 points, Kyrie Irving will have scored the 2nd most in Cavaliers’ playoff history while passing Mark Price. With Tristan Thompson’s third rebound, he passes Brad Daugherty for the third most in franchise history, and with one more offensive board, he passes Zydrunas Ilgauskas for the most offensive rebounds in the postseason for the Cavaliers.
Despite a fourth quarter effort from the Indiana Pacers which nearly erased the Cavaliers’ lead, the Wine-and-Gold have started their 2017 playoff campaign on the right foot, and have taken a 1-0 lead with a . With a 15-16 record in playoff series’ where they’ve won the first game, the Cavaliers now have the upper-hand, but certainly can’t stay complacent – especially when they only won game 1 by a single point. With one more home game before heading out to Indianapolis, Cleveland will have the ability to continue their current eight game winning streak over the Pacers in the regular season and post season while at home.
By most metrics, the Pacers played highly efficiently on offense. Their field goal percentage (49.4%) was 2.9% higher than their regular season average and their three point percentage (45.8%) was a full 8.2% above their regular season average. They even out rebounded the Cavaliers on both sides of the court with two more offensive boards and five more on the defensive end. Defensively, the Cavaliers continued their negative trend as of late, allowing a substantial 118.9 points per 100 possessions – 10.9 worse than their regular season average. However, the Pacers’ defense was even worse, as their Defensive Rating was a full 13.6 points per 100 possessions worse than their regular season average. While the Cavaliers can choose to rely on their offense efficiency, it might not be possible to also rely on the Pacers to falter as much on defense again, especially now that Pacers’ coach Nate McMillan has seen the result of switching on every single pick-and-roll, which brought about multiple instances of Jeff Teague having to guard LeBron James. One key weakness for the Pacers on defense was their inability to defend on mid-range shots, which netted the Cavaliers 20 of their 109 points (18.3%). While typically a low-efficiency shot, the Cavaliers managed to shoot 10-12 (83.3%) on mid-range jumpers, with Kyrie Irving scoring 14 of his 23 points there.
As was to be expected, nearly all of the Cavaliers offense ran through LeBron James, who led both teams in total touches (97), total passes made (65), and minutes played (42:44). His 13 assists tied his previous career best postseason record set last May against the Atlanta Hawks. Optimally, the Cavaliers will be looking to try and cut back on the amount of minutes LeBron plays in the first round, but when the game gets as close as it did on Saturday, they can’t afford to have one of the best players in the world on the bench. The best individual Defensive Rating – points allowed per 100 possessions when a player is on the floor – for the Cavaliers came in the form of J.R. Smith, followed closely behind by Tristan Thompson and LeBron James. Conversely, the best individual Offensive Ratings – team points scored per 100 possessions when a player is on the floor – came when Deron Williams and Kyle Korver were on the floor (both of whom also happened to have the worst Defensive Ratings).
Three main focuses for Game 2 will be: (1) put more effort in on the defensive glass. Out of every possible defensive rebound opportunity, the Cavaliers were only able to secure 66.7%, which is 9.1% worse than their regular season average. (2) Don’t leave Paul George open. He made six completely uncontested baskets – the most out of anyone on either team – as he scored his 29 points to lead the Pacers. (3) Make. Your. Free. Throws. The Cavaliers shot 14-27 from the free throw line (51.9%). During the regular season, the Cavaliers shot in the .500s from the free throw line seven times, and four of those ended up as losses.
Key players to watch for on the Pacers will be Paul George (averaged 23.7 points and 6.6 rebounds per game in the regular season), Jeff Teague (averaged 15.3 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 7.8 assists per game), and Myles Turner (averaged 14.5 points, and 7.3 rebounds per game).
Tipoff is set for 7:00 EST and will be broadcast on FOX Sports Ohio and TNT.