LeBron Begins Quest for 8th Straight Eastern Conference Title vs. Pacers

cavs  pacers

Matthew Jordan

Thursday, April 12, 2018 5:42 PM GMT

Thursday, Apr. 12, 2018 5:42 PM GMT

Despite a very up-and-down season, LeBron James and the Cavaliers remain favorites to win another East title. They open the postseason Sunday afternoon vs. Indiana.

Game 1: No. 5 Pacers (47-35 ATS) at No. 4 Cavaliers (32-49-1 ATS)Free NBA Pick: Cavaliers (& Over)Best Line Offered: SkyBook

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With all due respect to the other seven teams in the Eastern Conference playoffs, the majority of impartial NBA fans only care about what happens with LeBron James and his Cavaliers as the King looks to win the East for an incredible eighth straight season. Cleveland, just a No. 4 seed this season, opens its best-of-7 first-round series at home against No. 5 Indiana on Sunday. It’s a 3:30 p.m. ET tip on ABC.

Indiana won the season series 3-1, but all those games took place before the Cavs remade their team by shipping out the likes of Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Derrick Rose and Dwyane Wade for Rodney Hood, George Hill, Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson. The last meeting between the Pacers and Cavs was on Jan. 26.

Victor Oladipo led the Pacers in averaging 25.0 points against the Cavs. Darren Collison put up 18.0 points and 5.5 rebounds per game, and Domantas Sabonis 13.3 points and 11.8 rebounds. LeBron averaged a near triple-double of 28.8 points, 10.3 assists and 8.5 rebounds vs. Indiana. Kevin Love was at 16.0 ppg and 11.0 rpg.

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First-Round Rematch … Sort Of

What a difference a year makes. Cleveland was the East’s No. 2 seed in the 2017 postseason and swept the No. 7 Pacers. Indiana had superstar Paul George then, but of course traded him this offseason to Oklahoma City – Cleveland was after George too -- in what looked like a lopsided deal for the Thunder in that the only gave up Oladipo and Sabonis. The Pacers were prepared to essentially tank/rebuild this season, but Oladipo (23.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 4.3 apg) blossomed into one of the best shooting guards in the NBA and an All-Star. Sabonis (11.6 ppg, 7.7 rpg) also was a pleasant surprise. That trade worked out very well for the Pacers.

Of course, the Cavaliers had Kyrie Irving in last year’s playoffs but traded him to Boston. Could this also be the final postseason in a Cleveland uniform for LeBron? He will again be a free agent this summer and it might depend on how far the Cavs go on whether he re-signs or perhaps joins a budding powerhouse in Philadelphia or goes and plays with an established power in Houston with buddy Chris Paul and James Harden. For what it’s worth, since playoff seeding began in the 1983-84 season, only the 1995 Houston Rockets have won the NBA Finals as a fourth seed or lower. Just four teams in NBA have made it to four straight Finals as James is attempting with the Cavs.

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#PacersPlayoffs preparation. It all starts Sunday. pic.twitter.com/QAyKCi7DoS

— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) April 12, 2018
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At age 33, James played all 82 regular-season games for the first time in his career and had one of his best seasons; he’s likely to finish runner-up to Harden for NBA MVP. LeBron averaged 27.5 points (best since 2009-10), shot 54.2 percent from the field, pulled down 8.6 rebounds and handed out a career-high 9.1 assists. It will be fun to see what kind of silliness Indiana’s Lance Stephenson tries on James in this series.

Can the Cavs flip a switch defensively? They ranked 29th in defensive efficiency this season, easily the worst mark among the 16 playoff teams. If Cleveland leads entering the fourth, the game is over. The Cavs were 39-0 this season when they led after three quarters. No team had gone unbeaten in that scenario since 1954-55.

  • Cavaliers are 10-3 ATS in their last 13 games overall.
  • Over is 4-0-1 in the last 5 meetings in Cleveland.

The Cavs were the worst ATS team in the NBA this season, but the playoffs are a different animal. Cleveland has plenty of guys with big-game experience and Indiana doesn’t. Take the Cavs to cover Game 1 for a Sunday NBA pick in what should be a high-scoring game.

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