It's time to find out if the Cleveland Cavaliers can keep their foot on the pedal as their championship defense begins in earnest.
The Cavs had moments of looking like a title contender in the regular season, but they were usually fleeting. And they wobbled into the postseason with a 12-15 record after the All-Star break.
This has not been a team that has needed home-court advantage in the past, and LeBron James has made it to the Finals as the 2 seed five times. But the playoffs will punish bad defense and inconsistency.
Of course, there haven't been many teams more inconsistent than the Indiana Pacers. After an up-and-down second half of the season, the Pacers won five straight games to close the season and clinch their sixth playoff berth in the last seven years. But they head into the postseason as an average team on both ends of the floor.
It will be the fourth time that James and Paul George have met in the playoffs. James and the Cavs don't need to be at their absolute best to advance to the quarterfinals, but all eyes will be on that 22nd-ranked defense on Saturday, because it's time to push it into another gear.
Here are some statistical notes to get you ready for the 2-7 series in the East, with links to let you dive in and explore more.
Cleveland Cavaliers (51-31)
Pace: 98.4 (16)
OffRtg: 110.9 (3)
DefRtg: 108.0 (22)
NetRtg: +2.9 (8)
- Were 10.6 points per 100 possessions better at home (plus-8.2) than they were on the road (minus-2.4). That was the third biggest home-road NetRtg differential in the league and the biggest among playoff teams. The Pacers were also 10.6 points per 100 possessions better at home (plus-5.2) than they were on the road (minus-5.4).
- Defense allowed 1.18 points per possession in transition, the highest mark in the league.
- Only 40.0 percent of their shots came in the paint, the second lowest rate in the league and the lowest among playoff teams. Only Dallas (35.8 percent) took a lower percentage of its shots from the paint.
- Led the league with 351 corner 3-pointers, 76 more than any other team. Led the league in three from both the left corner (192) and right corner (159). Kevin Love (60) and Kyle Korver (53) ranked fourth and eight, respectively, among individuals. James had the second most assists on 3-pointers ever recorded in a single season, with 162 of his 349 coming on corner threes.
- 11.9 percent of their possessions were isolations, the highest rate in the league. Their 0.99 points per possession in isolations was the league's best mark.
- James led the league with 468 baskets in the restricted area. He shot 76.1 percent there, the second best mark among players with at least 200 restricted-area field goal attempts.
- James had an effective field goal percentage of 64.4 percent on clutch shots, the best mark among players who took at least 50.
- James and Irving ranked fourth and fifth in isolations possessions per game with 5.1 each.
- The Cavs outscored their opponents by 7.7 points per 100 possessions in 2,794 minutes with James on the floor and were outscored by 8.5 points per 100 possessions in 1,182 minutes with him off the floor. That differential of 16.3 points per 100 possessions was the second biggest on-off NetRtg differential among players who logged at least 1,000 minutes for a single team. They were better in 613 minutes with James on the floor without Irving or Love (plus-1.0 points per 100 possessions) than they were with Irving and Love on the floor without James (minus-3.1).
- Love's field goal attempts per 36 minutes went down as the game went on, from 21.4 in the first quarter (third most in the league), to 15.4 in the second, 15.0 in the third, and 11.5 in the fourth.
- One of three teams (all in the East) that finished with a winning record and a negative point differential.
- Allowed 6.1 points per 100 possessions more than they did last season. That was the biggest DefRtg increase in the league.
- Were 9.3 points per 100 possessions better with rest (plus-1.8) than they were on the second game of a back-to-back (minus-7.5). That was the second biggest differential in the league (behind only Detroit) and the biggest among playoff teams.
- Were the league's sixth best team in the first and third quarters, with a NetRtg of plus-3.8, but were the league's third worst team in the second and fourth quarters, with a NetRtg of minus-4.5. Had the league's worst second quarter defense, allowing 112.4 points per 100 possessions.
- Had an aggregate bench NetRtg of minus-4.6, the third worst mark in the league and the worst among playoff teams. They outscored their opponents by 4.4 points per 100 possessions in 2,178 minutes with both Paul George and Myles Turner on the floor, but were outscored by 3.9 points per 100 possessions in 874 with only one of the two on the floor and by 7.4 points per 100 possessions in 917 minutes with neither on the floor.
- Only 56 percent of their shots came from the restricted area or 3-point range, the second lowest rate in the league and the lowest among playoff teams. Only Detroit (53 percent) took a lower percentage of its shots from the restricted area or 3-point range.
- According to SportVU, George passed the ball only 44 percent of the time after using a ball screen, the second lowest rate (only Andrew Wiggins had a lower one) among 89 players who used at least 300 ball screens.. George had the highest turnover rate (8.6 percent), but also the third highest drawn-foul rate (8.8 percent) among that group.
- Only four Cavs played in all four games. James missed the first meeting (the Pacers' only win), Kevin Love missed the third meeting, and J.R. Smith missed each of the first three. Thaddeus Young played in just the first and fourth meetings for Indiana.
- Among Eastern Conference players, James (32.3 points per game) had the highest scoring average against the Pacers (minimum two games). James shot 37-for-62 (60 percent) in his three games vs. Indiana, getting 30 of his 62 shots in the restricted area. According to SportVU, James shot 14-for-27 (52 percent) with George defending him this season.
- Irving scored the most total points against Indiana this season. And after being traded to the Cavs, Kyle Korver played in the second and third meetings and shot 14-for-17 from 3-point range. No player had more threes against the Pacers this season.
- George's 43 points in the April 2 overtime game were the most scored in a game against the Cavs this season.
- The Pacers outscored the Cavs by 21 points in 159 minutes with George on the floor, but were outscored by 40 points in 43 minutes with George on the bench.
- C.J. Miles and Jeff Teague combined to shoot 25-for-47 (53 percent) from 3-point range in the four games.