Game Preview: Pacers at Cavaliers (Game 1)

Matchup

With their 104-86 win over the Hawks in the final game of the season, the Pacers clinched their sixth playoff berth in the last seven seasons.

As the battles around the rest of the conference subsided, the playoff field became set in stone, with Indiana (42-40) entering into a 7-seed versus 2-seed, best-of-seven matchup with a familiar foe, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers (51-31).

First, the bad news for Indiana: LeBron James in the first round of the playoffs has never lost in his entire career.

After his Cavaliers missed the playoffs in each of his first two seasons, teams with James on it have reached at least the second round, dating back to 2005-06.

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Furthermore, a team with James on it has never had a first round series go to seven games. Since 2008, James’ teams haven’t had a sereis go past five games in the opening round. And since the 2012 Playoffs, James’ teams have swept their first round series. The last time a team won a game against James in the first round was May 6, 2012, when the Knicks avoided a sweep by taking Game 4 89-87.

Now for the good news: Against LeBron in the playoffs, Paul George and the Pacers have gone an impressive 7-12 against the perennial contenders.

Additionally, the ways that the two teams are entering the postseason couldn’t be further apart. Indiana won its final five games of the regular season, with Paul George erupting for his best month of the season, averaging 32.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 2.2 steals in April.

The Cavaliers, conversely, dropped their final four games entering the postseason, losing out on the Eastern Conference’s top seed in the process.

Cleveland’s last two losses weren’t as worrisome, since the Cavs had elected to rest James and Irving so that they would be at full health for the playoffs. But the previous two losses were a bit more confounding for the Cavs. Against a Hawks team resting their starters, the Cavaliers were at full strength, but still lost 114-100 at home.

With a chance for redemption on the road, Cleveland hit yet another hurdle, blowing a 26-point lead in the fourth quarter in Atlanta.

Since March 1st, the Cavaliers’ defense has been in a state of disarray, surrendering 111.6 points per 100 possessions, the second worst in the NBA. Over that same timeframe, the Pacers have posted the league’s 11th best offensive rating, scoring 107.9 points per 100 possession.

With a Cavs team struggling and a Pacers group surging, this series offers one of the most intriguing matchups of the NBA’s opening round.

Paul George and LeBron James have met in the playoffs three times in their careers, with the series never failing to reach at least six games. Buckle up.

Projected Starters

Pacers: PG – Jeff Teague, SG – Monta Ellis, SF – Paul George, PF – Thaddeus Young, C – Myles Turner
Cavaliers: PG – Kyrie Irving, SG – J.R. Smith, SF – LeBron James, PF – Kevin Love, C – Tristan Thompson

Injury Report

Pacers: Glenn Robinson III – out (sore left calf), Al Jefferson – questionable (sprained left ankle)

Cavaliers: Kay Felder – questionable (left ankle sprain)

Last Meeting

April 2, 2017: In one of the most memorable games of the 2016-17 season, the Pacers fell 135-130 in a double-overtime thriller with the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena.

In the loss, Paul George put forth one of the best games of his career, scoring 19 of his game-high 43 points in the overtime periods.

“At this point, it’s whatever the team needs from me,” said George, who played 48 minutes. “I will give whatever I have, and do whatever I have to do. That is what tonight came down to. Whether I was going to make or miss those shots, I was confident in taking them. At this point, it’s whatever this team needs from me.”

In the first overtime, it looked like lights out for the Pacers when J.R. Smith drained a triple from the corner to put the Cavs up 114-113 with 2.8 seconds left. But on the other end, George was fouled while attempting to hit a game-winner. At the foul line, PG missed on his first but connected on the second, tying the game at 114 all.

The Pacers got another chance at it and the responsibility to hit the winner once again rested on George’s shoulders. Although he managed to find room to get the shot, it was just off, sending the game to its second overtime period.

In the second overtime, George gave the Pacers their first lead of the period after picking up a bucket and a foul when Kyrie Irving made contact with him, putting the Blue & Gold up 117-116. But on the next possession, Kevin Love nailed a hook shot to put Cleveland back on top. With the Pacers playing a small lineup, Love took advantage of the Pacers, powering his way to an offensive rebound and putback bucket in the paint to establish a 120-117 Cavaliers lead with 2:36 remaining, going on to win by five.

“They hit some amazing shots,” Jeff Teague said. “That’s what they do. They have been doing it all year. They always have a lot of shooting on the floor one through five. That’s why they are a good team.”

Noteworthy

  • The Pacers and Cavaliers have met once before in the playoffs, with Indiana winning 3-1 in the first round of the 1998 playoffs.
  • Cleveland started the season 41-17 and has gone 10-14 since.
  • In its three wins over Indiana, Cleveland has averaged 126.7 points. In their one loss, the Cavs were held to 93 points.
  • Indiana went 1-3 against Cleveland this season.

Tickets

After two games in Cleveland, the Pacers will return to Indiana for Games 3 and 4 on Thursday, April 20 and Sunday, April 23. Find out how to get exclusive presale access to playoff tickets at Pacers.com/Playoffs »

Broadcast Information TV & Radio Listings »

TV: ABC – Mike Breen (play-by-play), Jeff Van Gundy (analyst), Mark Jackson (analyst), Lisa Salters (sideline reporter)
Radio: 107.5 FM/AM 1070 The Fan – Mark Boyle (play-by-play), Pat Boylan (studio host)
Please Note: For the remainder of the season, all Pacers radio broadcasts can be heard on FM 107.5 as well as AM 1070 The Fan.

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Away Game Night Special

Primary Logo T-Shirt – $12. Game Night Specials can be purchased online the day of each away game from 10:00 AM – Midnight. Order Online »

Home Court Gift Shop Game Night Special

Fan Appreciation Night: 50% – 75% Off Select items. Game Night Specials can be purchased in the Home Court Gift Shop or any of our souvenir stands located on all levels of Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The special is also available online at PacersGear.com until midnight.


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