Cleveland Cavaliers versus Indiana Pacers Eastern Conference Playoff First Round Series preview
The defending champions will have the home court advantage for only two rounds after slipping to the second seed. First team on their path to the repeat is the old foe, Indiana Pacers. The Pacers of today are much the different team than the one who tried to fight James’ teams, but are equally feisty.
#2 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. #7 Indiana Pacers
There is a significant difference in reputation between the two teams, as the Cleveland Cavaliers are generally seen as the league’s powerhouse and the Indiana Pacers barely made the playoffs, but the second and the seventh seed were separated by only 10 wins. The Cavaliers won the regular season series 3-1, taking the April game in the overtime, barely. James didn’t play in the lone loss in November. The teams had their key players in other games.
Regular season results:
11/16/16 IND 103 – CLE 93
02/08/17 IND 117 – CLE 132
02/15/17 CLE 113 – IND 104
04/02/17 CLE 135- IND 130 (ot)
Each side have covered twice and the total line outcome was also split between the overs and unders. The average total line was 214.25, but neither game with full rosters was set below 213.5.
In the first game of this series, Cleveland eked out a 109-108 victory as the Pacers missed a wide-open buzzer beater to fall short. The Cavs led the entire way, slowly building an 8-point lead by the end of the third quarter, but were almost undone by the poor free throw shooting.
Playoff results and schedule:
Game 1 – IND 108 @ CLE 109 – (4/15/17, Saturday)
Game 2 – IND @ CLE (Monday 4/17/17, 7:00 PM ET – TNT )
Game 3 – CLE @ IND (Thursday 4/20/17, 7:00 PM ET – TNT)
Game 4 – CLE @ IND (Sunday 4/23/17, 1:00 PM ET – ABC)
Game 5 – IND @ CLE (Tuesday 4/25/17 – IF NEEDED)
Game 6 – CLE @ IND (Thursday 4/27/17 – IF NEEDED)
Game 7 – IND @ CLE (Saturday 4/29/17 – IF NEEDED)
Cavaliers in the rearview mirror
The Cavaliers have their eyes on the big prize, but are experienced enough to know that it all starts in the first round. They haven’t had the best of finishes to the regular season, with some chemistry issues and stars overload, so they need time to build a playoff momentum to ride.
On the paper, the Cavs are very deep. They added Korver and Deron Williams (and injured Bogut) to the championship team, but coach Lue failed to interlock the parts, so the Cavs are more reliant on James, Irving and Love than ever. It’s not a bad thing, of course, as James had another MVP-worthy season with 26.4 points, 8.6 rebounds and 8.7 assists per game and Irving established himself as one of the premier scorers in the league with 25.2 points and 40 percent shooting from the 3-point range. Love played only 60 games but improved on the last season, averaging 19 points and 11 rebounds per contest. The Cavaliers have put up the 2nd most three pointers in the league, embracing the widespread trend. They had no issues scoring the ball, but their defense regressed, especially towards the end of the season.
Cleveland Cavaliers Betting Trends:
ATS Score: 36-43-3
Over/under Score: 47-35-0
Pacers in the rearview mirror
The Indiana Pacers still didn’t finish their transformation from the front loaded team to an up-tempo free flowing team they’ve promised to be, but are going in that direction. It’s been an average season for them, as they hovered around the .500 the entire way. The Indiana Pacers are also average in pretty much any statistical category, so the next summer is probably make or break time for them. As off now, they are riding their star forward, Paul George, who averaged 23.7 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.6 steals this season, increasing his role as the season advanced. The jury is still out on youngsters Myles Turner and Glenn Robinson III, but the rest of the team is made of veteran journeymen. Neither of them had much success in the playoffs, though.
They don’t play at a high pace and take much less shots from beyond the arc. They do hit them at a fair rate and are the second best team from the free throw line, always an important factor come playoff time.
Indiana Pacers Betting Trends:
ATS Score: 39-43
Over/under Score: 41-41
Matching them up
The Cavaliers have the edge at almost any position, but the Pacers match-up fairly well with the champions. The reason for that lies in their build. They have a mobile trio of forwards in Young, George and Miles, so they can easily downsize and parry the small Cavs lineups, but can also stay big with Turner patrolling the paint. Their guards are the weakest point as the Cavs have the star power, the versatility and the size the Pacers can’t match. Teague and Ellis pairing is probably the worst defensive backcourt in the known universe, so Ellis is playing with the second unit the most of his minutes.
The Cavs are mostly concerned with Paul George, who almost singlehandedly won the last two games for the Pacers, erupting for 43 points in the regular season final game. They’ll double team him high, like they usually do in the playoffs and rely on the defensive rotations to cover the holes, to try to force other Pacers to beat them. The Pacers primary concern is to stop others from scoring. They know that James will get his, as will Irving and Love on most nights, so they can’t afford to have Frye, Korver, Smith and others hitting threes.
Cleveland in 5. Despite Pacers commendable will to win, they are simply overmatched here. The Cavs need only one win in Indy to post a quick 4-1 series win and show that they are coming. It’s unlikely that they’ll cruise, as witnessed in the opener, and the books are surely going to offer more value on the Pacers, so Cavs probably won’t be profitable in the series, but this shouldn’t be a lengthy series. Use the time wisely and make profit betting on the overs.
Kyrie Irving. He is looking to assert himself even more this year and James is happy to let him. Considering that the Pacers don’t have anyone to guard him, expect him to explode in couple of games. He isn’t a great defender, so that takes away some of the bid, but his offensive prowess will be enough for the biggest impact on the series.
Series bring changes. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Coaches look for unlikely solutions, for one should always account for the potential series turning factor. The Indiana Pacers don’t have a player who could surprise to be a force of change, so their biggest hidden treasure is their coach, Nate McMillan. Cavs coach Lue has had serious issues after the initial game changing tactics last year and has no control over the Cavs team when they’re down. If McMillan can out-coach him and make the Cavaliers nervous, Lue can’t stop them from imploding.
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