Pacers Know What They've Done: Won One

The performance on the court was plenty good enough, an 18-point victory in Cleveland that did indeed have a "shock the world" ring to it.

It was the Pacers' performance after the game, however, that should give their fans optimism for the rest of this first-round series, if not for series beyond it. To a man, they didn't celebrate. Didn't gloat. Didn't offer a single I-told-you-so to all the national media members who gave them no hope of eliminating the convoluted Cavaliers.

Hey, they could have been forgiven a whoop or two. They dominated the first quarter, never lost their poise after the Cavs got their lead down to single digits a few times and never trailed. And then they never failed to keep their composure amid the postgame questioning.

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For that, give credit to coach Nate McMillan and his season-long refrain of remaining calm, clear and connected, and to the steady nature of their best player, Victor Oladipo, who counters in-game hustle with post-game tranquility.

Oladipo was dressed like a businessman, in a sharp grey suit with black tie and pocket square. Then he gave the Cavs the business, with 32 points, six rebounds, four assists and four steals. He had four turnovers, too, but only two after the 8:53 mark of the first quarter after he got the hang of dealing with the Cavalier double-teams. He hit 6-of-9 3-pointers, which went a long way toward making up for the quiet games of Thad Young and Darren Collison and the poor shooting performance of Bojan Bogdanovic, who hit 5-of-17 shots.

If anyone deserved a moment to flex, crow or smirk, it was him. The closest he came to that was when asked in the postgame press conference if he was aware of Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert's summertime comment that the Pacers could have done better than the trade they made for Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis, referring to a proposed deal involving the Cavaliers.

"I was aware," Oladipo said, offering no elaboration.

Mostly, Oladipo led the charge toward humility and perspective.

Does he think the rest of the country believes in the Pacers now?

Joseph Dives for Loose Ball

"I have no idea. And I really don't care," he said. "I'm just focused on my team. Focused on this series, taking it one game at a time. Right now, I'm focused on Game 2. We've got to be ready. They're going to be ready, on both ends of the floor, but so are we.

"It's only one game."

Added Collison: "It's a long series. We still have to handle our business (in Game 2) on Wednesday. So we haven't done anything."

Added Thad Young: "The task is far from over."

Added Myles Turner: "It's the first game. It's not over."

We could go on, but you get the point. The Pacers didn't leave any bulletin board reading material for the Cavs to dwell on the next couple of days, just a lot of questions to answer. It was like LeBron James said, after recording yet another triple-double: "They dictated the tempo, were a little more aggressive, just played inspired basketball and took away everything we tried to do."

The Pacers obviously took confidence into Game 1. Now their primary challenge is to avoid taking complacency into Game 2. Cleveland has some soap operas gurgling beneath its surface, so it's difficult to know if Sunday's performance reflected a team coming apart or a team that believed its own hype. If that latter is true, it will be far more prepared and aggressive on Wednesday, as James suggested.

"We had some guys in their first time out there in a playoff series," he said. "Experience is the best teacher and they got it today. Everybody is going to be a lot more calm and more precise going into Game 2. It's definitely a feel-out game for sure."

The Pacers have handled challenges all season. The next one will be the biggest. They would be wise to make a quick study of past teams that stole Game 1s on the road.

  • They won Game 1 in Philadelphia in 2001 thanks to Reggie Miller's 3-pointer with a couple of seconds remaining, but were swept the rest of the series.
  • They won Game 1 in New Jersey in 2006, but lost the series in six games.
  • They won Game 1 in Toronto two years ago, but lost the series in seven games.
Nate McMillan

It works both ways, of course. They lost Game 1 on their home court in the first two rounds with Atlanta and Washington in 2014, but came back to win both series, and lost Game 1 at home to Orlando in 2012, but won that series, too.

They also might want to take a look at Game 2 in the second round against Miami in 2012. They won that one, negating the Heat's Game 1 victory, and celebrated on the court as if they had won the series. Locker room sage David West, in his first season with the team, stood just off the court and waved his arms at his teammates, yelling at them to get off the court immediately. The series wasn't over.

The Pacers proceeded to win Game 3 back in Indianapolis but lost the next three.

This team gives every impression of knowing better than to assume anything. But it's also shown plenty of human tendencies over the course of the season and is capable of falling victim to a comfort zone. It won homecourt advantage on Sunday and will have it when it returns to Bankers Life Fieldhouse for Game 3 on Friday, but it can lose it as quickly as it got it.

Sunday was about composure.

Wednesday will be about hunger.

Have a question for Mark? Want it to be on Pacers.com? Email him at askmontieth@gmail.com and you could be featured in his next mailbag.

Mark Montieth's book, "Reborn: The Pacers and the Return of Pro Basketball to Indianapolis," covers the formation and early seasons of the franchise. It is available at retail outlets throughout Indiana and online at sources such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Indiana Pacers. All opinions expressed by Mark Montieth are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Indiana Pacers, their partners, or sponsors.