The Cleveland Cavaliers are 3-1 in the preseason, but the schedule hasn't exactly been tough. Wins over the Milwaukee Bucks, Orlando Magic, and probably pretty decent Detroit Pistons to go with a loss to the Charlotte Bobcats have led us to this moment, a potential test against a team that has nothing less than full-on championship intentions. The Pacers took the Miami Heat to a full seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals last season, and have improved the bench that let them down in that series.
On top of the fact that the Pacers are a really good basketball team, they happen to be win-less in the preseason. Of course, it is preseason and doesn't matter. But is there a chance that the Pacers might put forth just a little bit more effort to put one in the win column. And that could lead to a nice challenge for the Cavaliers, regardless of the intentions Mike Brown has going into the game.
Who: Indiana Pacers at Cleveland Cavaliers
Where can I watch? Sports Time Ohio
Music: The Pacers are a blue collar, grind em out team. With the Cavaliers a year away from perennial title contention, and the Miami Heat stars completely breaking down (okay, this sentence might not be true) this season is the Pacers championship window. Miss out on the title this year, and risk becoming the 90's Knicks, constantly playing second fiddle to Michael Jordan. So let's go with Born to Run, the Boss' last chance power-drive.
What to watch for with the Pacers: The Pacers are coming off a loss last night to the Bulls. Danny Granger left the game early with a strained calf, so it is hard to know if he will play. Indiana has 13 players with guaranteed contracts, just like the Cavaliers. Their coach Frank Vogel, however, hasn't been giving any of the guys they have in camp any minutes in actual preseason games. Guys like Hilton Armstrong and former Cavalier Darnell Jackson are hoping for a spot on the team, but have been forced to earn it on the practice floor thus far. My guess is after a preseason back-to-back this might change.
I am curious to see if Paul George or Lance Stephenson have made any improvements to their game. Without improvement from those players the Pacers will continue to struggle to score. The Pacers built their team without tanking, and the question was always if you would be able to really win without an elite star that most small market teams can usually only get through the top of the draft. Paul George came with the 10th pick, and we will find out this year a bit more about whether he can really be a superstar. Coming off his first All-Star campaign and a very successful playoff run, he has a shot. Whether he can improve his handle and create off the dribble is the next step, but it isn't one that he is guaranteed to make.
What to watch for with the Cavs: I have a feeling this could be a big Kyrie Irving game. He will probably see the Pacers as a good team to measure himself against. Irving has been avoiding driving to the basket, and all is all, this is a fine preseason strategy. I am hoping, though, that he takes the training wheels off his offensive game for this one, because the Indiana defense and Roy Hibbert and David West could provide a great test.
Aside from that, we all want to continue to see good-ish things from the rookies, Anthony Bennett and Sergey Karasev. Earl Clark came off the bench against Detroit and played much better. Seeing if he can keep that up will be fun.
Lastly, I will be at this game and covering it for Fear the Sword. If you have questions for players let me know and I will do my best. Follow me at @DavidZavac and @fearthesword on twitter for pre and postgame quotes.
Prediction: Kyrie scores 25 points, the Pacers second unit logs a lot of minutes, and the Cavs get a win.