Cavs vs. Pacers: First Round Primer

Wine & Gold Gear Up for First Round Faceoff Against the Pacers
by Joe Gabriele
Cavs.com Managing Editor


Cavs vs. Pacers:
First Round Primer

Wine & Gold Gear Up for First Round Faceoff Against the Pacers


The Wine & Gold have had some strange seasons in the past – in the LeBron James Era and beyond. But the 2017-18 campaign has been weird from almost the moment last year’s NBA Finals wrapped up.

The Cavaliers went into the offseason with Kyrie Irving at the point, started this regular season with Derrick Rose at the point, started the new year with Isaiah Thomas at the point and will head into the Playoffs with George Hill at the head of the snake. Jose Calderon, the first free agent Cleveland signed over the summer, has persisted through the whole turnstile.

In terms of persistence, the Wine & Gold weathered 30 lineup changes and 197 combined games lost to illness or injury – not counting their head coach, who missed two weeks of the season to tend to his own health. The Cavaliers earned their 50 wins the hard way this season.

You’ve heard the players themselves say it: This year has been like two seasons: One before the Trade Deadline and one after.

Early in the campaign, Cleveland ran off 18 wins in 19 outings – including a 13-game run. But things started coming apart after a Christmas Day loss at Oracle Arena and the Cavaliers limped to a 6-8 finish in January. After suffering terrible losses to Houston at home and the Magic in Orlando, it was clear something had to give – and it did.

The Cavaliers proceeded to go 19-10 following the three roster-altering deals and seemed to gel down the stretch – despite rarely fielding the same lineup from one night to the next: closing out the campaign winners of 11 of their final 14 contests, including eight of their last nine at The Q.

The Wine & Gold’s reward is a First Round date with the only Eastern Conference team that holds a winning mark against them this season – the Indiana Pacers.

It’s the second straight year that they’ll open tournament play against Indiana. And before they tip off the Central Division brawl this Sunday at The Q, here’s a quick six-step primer to get your ready …

LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers handles the ball against the Indiana Pacers on January 26, 2018 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.
Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images


1. Here’s how it went down in four head-to-head meetings this season …

November 1: The Pacers snapped a nine-game losing streak at The Q – handing the Wine & Gold their fourth straight loss in the process, scoring at least 30 points in all four quarters and hitting on 62 percent from beyond the arc in a one-sided 124-107 win. LeBron James led everyone with 33 points, but Thaddeus Young scored 12 of his 26 in the fourth quarter to seal the deal.

December 8: The Cavaliers hadn’t lost a game in nearly a month when they rolled into Bakers Life Fieldhouse, trying to win their 14th straight. Instead, the Pacers dropped Cleveland for the 13th time in their last 15 visits to Indianapolis – with the new-look Pacers opening the game on a 13-2 run and closing it on a 13-5 run to snap Cleveland’s win streak.

January 12: Closing out a road trip and in the midst of a month-long funk, the Cavaliers dropped their third straight to the Pacers, who erased Cleveland’s 22-point first half lead as the Wine & Gold failed to score a single point in the final four minutes of regulation and fell to 3-8 after a stretch of 18 wins in 19 outings.

January 26: Cleveland briefly emerged from their January funk in time to get their lone win over the Pacers this season – but they didn’t make it easy on themselves, weathering nine fourth-quarter turnovers to take the 115-108 win at The Q. JR Smith canned seven triples and finished with 23 points and LeBron James notched his eight triple-double of the season in the win.


2. The Cavaliers and Pacers have only met twice before in the postseason.

The first meeting was back in 1998, when the Cavs returned to the Playoffs after a one-year hiatus – featuring Shawn Kemp, Wesley Person and a group of rookies that included Derek Anderson, Cedric Henderson, Brevin Knight and Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who gave the Pacers’ “Dunkin’ Dutchman” – Rik Smits – fits over the four-game First Round matchup, averaging 17.3 points and 7.5 boards in the series.

Fratello’s stingy squad stole Game 3 – 86-77 – back at the then-Gund Arena, but that Pacers squad was loaded with the likes of Reggie Miller, Chris Mullin, Dale Davis, Mark Jackson, Jalen Rose and Smits. And they out-slugged the offensively-challenged Cavaliers in Game 4 – 80-74 – en route to the Eastern Conference Finals, where they fell to the Bulls in seven.

Last year, the Wine & Gold went through the Pacers in four games – taking a pair of thrillers at The Q to start the series before returning to Indiana for one of the greatest postseason comebacks in league history – erasing a 25-point lead at halftime to take the 119-114 win in Game 3.

In Game 4, the Pacers nearly turned the table on the Cavaliers in Game 4 – erasing Cleveland’s late 17-point lead in an attempt to force a Game 5 back at The Q. But LeBron’s triple gave Cleveland its final lead of the game, handing the Pacers their first four-game sweep in franchise history.


3. For those of you who like the schedule in prose form …

After starting on Saturday afternoon last year, the Cavs will tip off on Day 2 – welcoming the Pacers to The Q for Game 1 on Sunday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. on ABC. Game 2 is slated for Wednesday night in Cleveland at 7:00 p.m. on FOX Sports Ohio & TNT.

The series moves back to Indiana next weekend, with a 7:00 p.m. start for Game 3 on Friday night and an 8:30 p.m. start on Sunday night for Game 4 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

If necessary, Game 5 is set for next Wednesday (4/25) at The Q, Game 6 is next Friday in Indy (4/27) and Game 7 is scheduled for Sunday (4/29) back on the corner of Huron and Ontario.


The Wine & Gold have an all-time postseason record of 1113-94 (.546) – including a 69-33 (.676) mark at home, a 44-61 (.419) mark on the road and a 7-4 record in overtime games.

Cavaliers All-Time Postseason Records

4. In his 15th NBA season, LeBron James does indeed seem to be aging like fine wine. Over that decade-and-a-half, he’s had an extensive history against Indiana – both with Cleveland and Miami, in the regular season and Playoffs.

When the Cavs wrapped up their four-game sweep of the Pacers last year, it marked the 21st straight First Round victory for LeBron James, who’s last loss came against JR Smith and the Knicks back in 2012.

(As a Cavalier, the four-time MVP has faced the Pistons in the Playoffs four times; the Wizards, Hawks, Celtics and Warriors three times each; the Bulls and Raptors twice and the Nets and Magic one time apiece.)

James has faced the Pacers in the postseason four times during his career. Indiana gave James’ Heat everything they could handle in three series matchups – taking Miami to six games in the East Semis in 2012 and to seven and six games in the Conference Finals in ’13 and ’14.

In four meetings against the Pacers this campaign, James averaged 28.8 points on .558 shooting to go with 10.3 rebounds and 8.5 assists. In 54 regular season meetings (35-19), his numbers are 27.4 ppg, 7.6 rpg and 6.5apg; in 23 Playoff meetings, he’s at 28.3 ppg, 8.4 rpg and 6.2 apg.


5. After facing each other in the First Round of last year’s postseason, both teams underwent a major facelift over the offseason.

When the postseason tipped off last year, the Pacers top five scorers were Paul George, Jeff Teague, Myles Turner, C.J. Miles and Thaddeus Young. When the Cavs and Pacers square off this Sunday, their top five scorers will be Victor Oladipo, Bojan Bogdanovic, Thaddeus Young, Domantas Sabonis and Darren Collison.

The Cavaliers have been a work in progress all season – see: 30 lineup changes – and could go as many as 11 deep once the First Round tips off. Following Wednesday’s practice, Coach Lue still refused to name his starting five for Sunday’s Game 1.


6. Finally, here’s a few Cavaliers Playoff facts loaded into four sentences …

The Wine & Gold have an all-time postseason record of 1113-94 (.546) – including a 69-33 (.676) mark at home, a 44-61 (.419) mark on the road and a 7-4 record in overtime games. They’ve played the Celtics and Bulls each 34 times in the postseason with a record of 16-18 vs. Boston and a 14-20 mark against the Bulls. They’ve beaten the Hawks all 12 times they’ve faced them and have taken the last 12 against Detroit. They have zero wins against San Antonio and just one more (against eight losses) against the Knicks.


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