The playoff hopes might be very slight, but they are also very much alive as the Cavaliers take on the Indiana Pacers Sunday afternoon. The Cavaliers have performed admirably in the absence of Kyrie Irving and will look to upset the Eastern Conference leading Pacers in what might be their last game before the return of their 22 year old star, Kyrie Irving.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers (29-45) vs. Indiana Pacers (52-21)
When: 3:00 pm EST
Where: Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, Ohio
Where on my eyeballs: Fox Sports Ohio, NBA League Pass
Keys to the game:
- Make it ugly. The Pacers have been struggling lately, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. If the Cavs let them get easy looks at the start of the game, it'll likely be too difficult to contain them and muster enough offense to win against their defense.
- Dion Waiters of course is a big key to the Cavaliers. He struggled for a large part of the game vs. the Nets but eventually did manage to bounce back and have a decent outing. With Irving out, the team goes as he goes. He will need to set the tone with his energy and likely kick-start the offense with some buckets early. If you're going to slay a giant, it helps having someone that believes he's bigger and badder than anyone in the room.
- I alluded to keeping the game ugly above. Bad basketball is common in afternoon games, but with the way the Pacers have been playing this could definitely benefit the Cavs. The Pacers are loaded with guys with short fuses and when they lose their cool, they tend to play poorly. If I was Mike Brown I would consider deploying Matthew Dellavedova early in the game on Lance Stephenson just to drive him nuts. Delly's relentless effort on defense has gotten on the nerves of several players around the league this season. Even if he racks up a few fouls, I think it might pay off dividends later in the game.
- Paul George has really struggled since January. Earlier in the year he was knocking down midrange jumpers and Dirk-like rates. However, that has all changed and the Pacers have struggled as a result. Luol Deng has been far from the defensive stopper we hoped we were getting ever since he arrived from Chicago. But if the Cavs are to have any chance at winning this game, they will need Deng to make sure that the Cavs are not the team George gets back on track against.