Can Paul George and the Pacers find a way to pull off the upset against LeBron James and the Cavaliers?
The Cavaliers will be looking to silence their doubters when they face the Pacers in the opening round of the NBA Playoffs. Indiana lost the regular season series to Cleveland 3-1, but they’ll be looking to capitalize on the recent shaky play of the defending champions.
Pacers Keys To Victory
Coach Nate McMillan must find a way to limit the Cavs’ effectiveness on the perimeter in this series. The leading threat posed to the Pacers comes in the form of Kyle Korver, as the former Hawks wing has torched Indiana on two separate occasions since his mid-season move. In those two contests, Korver has attempted 17 three-point shots, and connected on 14 of them.
Continuing on the defensive theme, the Pacers must find a way to force turnovers. In their lone victory over Cleveland, Indiana managed to commit eight fewer turnovers, helping them defeat the LeBron-less Cavs in November.
The Pacers X-Factor: Myles Turner
Paul George is the obvious choice, but Indiana will need a huge series from their 21-year-old center if they want to have a chance. The Cavs have a razor-thin frontcourt, and they lack a post player that can match Turner’s height to athleticism ratio.
Turner will be tasked with the duty of securing offensive rebounds, and it won’t be an easy job while battling the adept Tristian Thompson on the glass. On top of creating extra possessions, the former Texas big man will have to limit the damage done in the paint by Cleveland’s slashing guards. Luckily for Indiana, it appears that their center is hitting his stride at the right time, recording 12 blocks in his last three outings.
Cavaliers Keys To Victory
Jeff Teague had to leave the Pacers’ Wednesday victory over the Hawks early with an ankle injury, and it would behoove the Cavaliers to test the veteran guard early on Saturday. Outside of George, Indiana has very few players who can create their own offense, so getting Teague off the floor would be a major boon for the defending champs.
It is possible that Cleveland only gets slightly better on defense in the postseason, but that isn’t a problem for a squad that possesses an impressive offensive arsenal. If LeBron James can get Kevin Love involved early, it will pay major dividends in the points column. The former Timberwolves star scores over five more points per game compared to his normal average in Cleveland victories, so it pays to get the big fella involved.
The Cavaliers X-Factor: Kyrie Irving
With James and George cancelling each other out, Irving should find himself in the driver’s seat for large stretches of the series. On top of finding his own shot, Irving will have the duty of finding open teammates on the perimeter. The Pacers surrender 10.1 three-point field goals per game, which should be music to the ears of the Cavs’ talented shooters.
Projected Outcome: Cavaliers Win In Five
Look for Cleveland to re-establish themselves as serious title contenders after a sluggish second half of the regular season by quickly dispatching Indiana in the first round. George is equipped to give the Cavs a scare, but LeBron is more than capable of matching his output.
If the Pacers can plant a seed of doubt early, this series does have the potential to extend to six or seven games, but the Cavaliers have the postseason experience to overcome adversity.
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