NBA Playoffs 2018 Preview: Pacers-Cavaliers Game 2

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Game 1 was a wake-up call for Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
It’d been 21 games since Lebron had lost a first-round game, dating back to 2012 when the big 3 Heat team lost a road game 4 to the Knicks and a hot Carmelo Anthony. Since then, Lebron has won 3 championships and changed sides. Throughout a good deal of his career, mainly from 2009 onward, Lebron has been mostly indestructible in the first round of the playoffs, overmatching inferior teams who have no answer for him. He had never lost a round 1 game 1 in his career, boasting a 12-0 record.
It has furthermore helped that Lebron’s teams have been seeded first or second in the east, thus avoiding tougher teams until later in the spring. It’d been ten years since a Lebron James led team has been seeded lower than second. It’d also been ten years since Lebron lost a round 1 home playoff game.
On Sunday, in Game 1, many of these streaks snapped, some of them dramatically. Going in, the Cavs were (and still are, apparently) a 4 seed after a chaotic season with high in-season roster turnover. Unlike most other Lebron round 1 opponents the Pacers are no slouches with 48 wins and the fifth seed. Whereas the Cavaliers underperformed preseason expectations, the Pacers significantly outperformed them after a controversial offseason trade that sent franchise player Paul George to the Thunder. Many thought George’s departure would spell doom for the franchise, but instead, led by Victor Oladipo, who was the centerpiece in the return package for George, the Pacers have been a force on both ends of the floor and a formidable foe for all in their way.
Still, many expected the Cavs to take care of business against the Pacers because of their Lebron advantage. When they tipped off Sunday afternoon, the Cleveland crowd was raucous and rocking, expecting a cruise to victory as has become par for the course this time of year. Instead, the Cavaliers came out extraordinarily flat while the Pacers pounced. Even the rudimentary appeared difficult for the Cavs, routine passes were off-line, basic dribbles disjointed, shots vigorously contested and late in the shot-clock. The Cavaliers looked like a taped together group of players, many of whom only indeed acquired two months ago, while the Pacers appeared a connected, motivated team. They moved the ball crisply, found good looks at the basket and communicated adeptly on defense. Frustrated, Lebron, who had initially made an effort to get all his teammates involved, decided to take the whole game on himself. He was able to get to the rim and knock down a few jumpers as the game progressed, but it was not nearly enough as his teammates stood around and watched. They were never able to stop the Pacers on the other end, and the Cavs lost by 18, a stunning result for any home team in the playoffs; especially so for a team led by Lebron James.

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With the Cavs down 0-1, game 2 looms massively. If they lose tonight, the series may be over. It will be imperative for the team to get on the same page on offense. Lebron’s teammates looked clueless and unprepared with the ball in their hands at times in game 1, moving in random, spastic directions off the ball and acting surprised when the ball was finally flung in their direction. It will be hard for them to figure it all out as many of these players only arrived in February.
If the Cavs do somehow sitch it together, the Pacers will have to weather the storm with Victor Oladipo, Myles Turner Darren Collison and Lance Stephenson replicating their hot shooting performance from game 1. To be honest, if the Pacers can stay hot and motivated, it’s hard to imagine the Cavs putting it together in this series. It could very well be the end of an era, with Lebron rumored to be leaving the Cavs this summer, perhaps to the LA Lakers.
Game 2 can be seen tonight at 8 PM EST on TNT.


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