Much has been made about the Cleveland Cavaliers’ poor play and record after the All-Star break. They were firmly in command of the East in late February, until sliding to a 12-15 record to end the regular season.
This resulted in losing the No. 1 seed to the Boston Celtics at the end of the regular season, and a first-round playoff matchup against the Indiana Pacers.
Indiana comes into this series on a different note, having won their last five games en route to securing the No. 7 seed. In fact, their last loss was a 135-130 double-overtime duel against Cleveland that they’d surely like to avenge.
Obviously both teams are on different wavelengths heading into the series. But will the Pacers’ recent hot streak continue with a first-round upset of the Cavs? Find out as we cover everything you need to know about this series, including which team you should bet on.
First Round Playoffs Series: No. 7 Pacers (42-40) vs. No. 2 Cavs (51-31)
Game 1 Betting Line: Indiana +8.5, Cleveland -8.5
Other Betting Lines: Check GTBets.eu
Game 1 @CLE: 3 pm EST, Saturday, April 15 (ABC)
Game 2 @CLE: 7 pm EST, Monday, April 17 (TNT)
Game 3 @IND: 7 pm EST, Thursday, April 20 (TNT)
Game 4 @IND: 1 pm EST, Sunday, April 23 (ABC)
Game 5 @CLE: TBD, Tuesday, April 25 (TBD)
Game 6 @IND: TBD, Thursday, April 27 (TBD)
Game 7 @CLE: TBD, Saturday, April 29 (TBD)
Cleveland Cavaliers First Round Preview
Much of the news surrounding the Cavs is on whether or not they can flip the switch and play more intensely than their dismal second-half regular season performance. The talent is there, but is the cohesiveness also there?
Cleveland brought in several new faces after Lebron James questioned the front office’s commitment to winning. Ironically, there’s been less winning ever since Deron Williams, Kyle Korver, and Derrick Williams were signed/traded for.
This isn’t to say that these aren’t valuable players because they give Cleveland far more talent off the bench, versus when they gave rookies Kay Felder and DeAndre Liggins (since waived) heavy minutes. But it’s taken a toll defensively, with new faces trying to understand when and where they need to be on help defense.
The Cavs have also been affected by lengthy layoffs for Kevin Love and J.R. Smith. The latter got a few weeks of playing time, but Smith still hasn’t returned to the high-level play he exhibited last season. Love has had less time to tune up for the playoffs, but he also saw far more game time than Smith before his knee surgery. Even Tristan Thompson missed a couple of games for the first time in his career.
One good thing for Cleveland is that their two biggest stars, Kyrie Irving and LeBron James, have stayed relatively healthy. The problem for Indiana is that nobody on their team is capable of shutting either player down for a 7-game series. The problem for Cleveland is that their defensive rating per 100 possessions was 111.6, which would’ve ranked dead-last for the season.
Despite the defensive dillema, the Cavs have too many good players to be stopped on offense. Provided there are no major Cavalier injuries, we can’t see them losing this series.
Indiana Pacers First Round Preview
Earlier this month, the Pacers were on the outside of the playoffs, looking in. But they had a strong run in April that pushed them into the postseason. And even though they lost to Cleveland in double overtime on April 2nd, this road loss gave them confidence in Quicken Loans Arena.
The biggest reason for Indiana’s surge is the play of Paul George, who averaged 29.7 PPG, 7.1 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 2.2 steals over the final 15 regular season games. He also shot the lights out, hitting 51.4% from the field, including 43% from three-point range.
Another reason for the Pacers’ strong play lately is the re-addition of Lance Stephenson. After an odyssey away from Indiana that lasted almost two years, the prodigal guard is back in Indianapolis. And he’s been an immediate plus, providing defensive toughness and playmaking to a team that’s lacked these aspects off their bench.
George is definitely encouraged by the team’s play of late, which has been much better than Cleveland’s.
Paul George: "I'm confident I can get to another level (in the playoffs)."
— Nate Taylor (@ByNateTaylor) April 13, 2017
Paul George on the 5-game winning streak ahead of the playoffs: "We're ready for this. We're playing great basketball right now."
— Nate Taylor (@ByNateTaylor) April 13, 2017
Outside of George willing Indiana to victories, and Stephenson bringing toughness/craziness, Indiana’s remaining roster is a mixed bag.
Point guard Jeff Teague has mostly been solid, with 15.3 PPG and 7.8 APG. He’s also been good enough from three-point range (35.7%) to keep defenses from sagging and stopping his driving ability.
Center Myles Turner adds a scoring punch (14.5 PPG) and much-needed shot blocking (2.14 BPG), but his rebounding (7.3 RPG) could improve.
But big men Al Jefferson and Thaddeus Young have struggled to stay healthy. Meanwhile, backup guards Rodney Stuckey and Monta Ellis haven’t provided the consistency that Indiana needs off their bench.
This being said, it’ll be the Paul George show combined with whatever he can get from the supporting cast. Indiana doesn’t have a Kyrie or K-Love to back him up. But maybe if P.G. continues his tear, Stephenson continues bringing intensity, and there’s enough support from others, Indiana will pull off the upset.
Final Thoughts on Cavs vs Pacers Playoffs Betting
The biggest problem for the Cavs is that they haven’t had enough practice time to integrate their new players with the system – especially on defense. They finally got some practice time this week and should be better because of it.
Meanwhile, Indiana doesn’t want to do anything differently than they have been. The current 5-game win streak shows that something is clicking right. They’re hoping that the magic can continue against Cleveland.
But will it?
Probably not. The Cavs have had Indiana’s number over the past two years, winning 3 straight against them, and 6 of the past 8 games. We see a competitive series, but one in which the Cavaliers win relatively quickly. Their rotation is too deep, and Indiana doesn’t have anybody on their roster capable of checking LeBron, even if Stephenson starts blowing in his ear again.
Series Prediction: Cavs win series 4-1