After a ten point fourth quarter lead almost turned into a Game 1 upset, the Cavs look to capitalize on not allowing the momentum to swing in the Pacers favor. Here are three things to watch for during game two.
Kevin Love’s early possessions
It makes sense when the Cavs get Kevin Love the ball down low early in the first quarter, encouraging him to be aggressive, which they did in game one, leading to 10 quick points. He did cool off for the rest of the game, finishing 2-6 from three, with 17 total points. But, between him being the only Cavs player taller than 6’8 with the skill set to work from the block, and his shooting struggles since returning to the lineup (31.6 3P% March, 34.1 3P% April in the regular season), trying to get him involved and back on track early again in game two is something to watch for. With LeBron — who’s absorbed an absurd amount of minutes this year, and in his career in general — and Kyrie — who may have a lingering injury — it would be nice to see Love have a game or two, early in the playoffs, that carries the team.
Playoff Lance Stephenson
When the Pacers were up double digits to the Toronto Raptors a few games back, with less than a shot clock to play, and Stephenson dribbled down the court and hit a petty, meaningless and kind of amazing layup, which made three Raptors try to fight him, it was obvious Lance Stephenson was in the process of morphing into Playoff Lance Stephenson. Playoff Lance Stephenson, a supercharged, more unpredictable version of Lance Stephenson, scored 16 points on 8-13 shooting, with 7 rebounds, and finished +7 in game one. He led a late run that kept the Pacers within striking distance, and although he missed a dagger three that he was more or less baited into taking, he played a really efficient game. But, who knows what to expect from Playoff Lance Stephenson in game two. Maybe he’ll drop 20, maybe it’s only three. Maybe he blows in LeBron’s ear again. Maybe he trades threes with JR Smith. Maybe he drop kicks Moondog. Maybe he hits a game-winning shot. Maybe he goes 1-9 from the field. Whatever the case, he’s a tough, confidence-driven player whose not intimated by a better team in the playoffs, and that makes him an interesting storyline.
How the Cavs handle downswings
It’s not exactly flying under the radar that the Cavs are struggling on defense. And, when that’s the case, it’s hard to blow other teams out, and it leaves the door open to give up points in batches that lead to almost losing games that you shouldn’t have almost lost. But, they didn’t lose, which is all that really matters, and, for as much as they let the Pacers hang around, the Cavs didn’t look flustered. LeBron stopped a big run with an iso that led to a statement dunk, and, although he also missed a game-sealing three, that last defense stand was as smart as it was risky. They knew Paul George wanted to beat them one-on-one, so they doubled him, with LeBron charging in to help. They had a foul to give, and with 10 seconds left, they fouled. The Pacers tried to iso George again and the Cavs ran the same thing at them. And George’s post-game comments reinforced that the Cavs knew exactly what the Pacers wanted to do, and stopped it, while the Pacers failed to make a necessary adjustment.
I have no problem with hero ball in the right circumstances, but when you have the ball at the top of the key, and one of the best perimeter defenders in basketball is one of two players guarding you, it’s probably time to go to option two. In the last three years, the Cavs haven’t been a stranger to taking hard, unexpected punches, but they’ve also become accustomed to rolling with them.