Coach’s Corner: Paul Westhead on Cavs-Pacers Matchup
By Paul Westhead (As told to Andrew Pearson)


Westhead
Last time these two teams met, the Cavaliers blew out the Pacers 96-66, despite only leading by four points at halftime. Indiana was surely looking forward to the rematch but unfortunately they will be without their best player, Jermaine O’Neal, who will be sidelined for at least eight weeks with a torn groin muscle, as well as the newly acquired Peja Stojakovic, who most likely won’t play until Tuesday against Washington.

Stojakovic is an extremely important addition for the Pacers. They have missed an offensive punch all season, and now they have acquired a shooting machine. Peja is having a little bit of an off year, but probably the change in venue will be exactly what he needs. They need him so much that I am sure after a few games they’ll find ways to create offensive opportunities for him. He’ll surely get more touches. Unfortunately, with Jermaine O’Neal out, Indiana is a much less effective team offensively as well as defensively on the boards. This is not the best situation for Peja to come in to because teams will focus on him, but because of his outside shooting ability, he’ll still score in bunches and the team will score minus Jermaine O’Neal.

The Pacers will have to wait one more game for Peja.
Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images

X-FACTORS

The obvious one for Indiana would have been for Peja to show up and get them 32 points and have the crowd enamored with him immediately. He would have been the oncoming X-factor, especially with the absence of Jermaine O’Neal. With his absence, they are going to have trouble scoring the ball.

For Cleveland, who’s been on a roll having won three straight, stay on a roll. They are sharing the ball pretty well. They are obviously getting good games from LeBron James. Ilgauskas is a threat inside. Gooden is rebounding very well. An added x-factor could be their outside shooting from Donyell Marshall or Damon Jones coming off the bench.

Their defensive turnaround of late certainly has helped them. Over the last five games they have allowed an average of 87 points on 42 percent shooting. Some of their players are good defenders, which starts with Eric Snow who has always been a consistent on-the-ball defender. Drew Gooden at times can defend and rebound the defensive glass. If Ilguaskas can stay out of foul trouble, he is a defensive presence.

BOTTOM LINE

The only good news for Indiana is that the game is in Indianapolis. Rick Carlisle, especially off last season, is very good at playing shorthanded and coming up with techniques defensively and isolating his key offensive players and playing a slower paced game. I am sure he doesn’t want the game to be in the 60’s like last time, but Indiana despite their misfortune, will play a very effective game. They will want to keep the game in the 70’s and hope they can do something to contain LeBron James. Without its superstars, Indiana is hoping for someone to step up as Superman and match the scoring of LeBron. It’s a big task.

-- Paul Westhead appears courtesy of the National Basketball Coaches Association