The Cavaliers have snagged a 2-0 series lead and head to Indianapolis to try to remove any doubt that they’ll be advancing to the second round. This series has been closer than most imagined, with the Cavaliers struggling to maintain leads in the 4th quarter. This has led to margins of victory of just one and six points, respectively. This has led to a bit of anxiety, but the Cavaliers remain in a very good spot going into their third game.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers vs Indiana Pacers (Cleveland leads series 2-0)
When: Thursday, 7 PM ET
Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Indiana
Where to watch: TNT
What to Watch for:
- It’s easy to get concerned about how close these games have been, given the handwringing accompanying the Cavaliers over the last four games of the season. That said, this wasn’t that different last year. The Cavaliers margins of victory against the Pistons last season in the first round were 5, 17, 10, and 2. That series, like this one, featured a team playing well that presented the Cavaliers some problems that they had to solve. They make for a very good tune-up for a team that needed to spend the first couple rounds gearing up for tougher matchups down the line.
- In years past, when the Cavaliers have taken control of a series, the opposition has tried to muck up the games with (sometimes excessive) physicality. It makes sense, and is a David strategy that’s been used for years. The Cavs need to be smart in matching that physicality without losing their cool and knocking the hell out of the opposition.
- Speaking of ol’ J.R., an MRI on his left hamstring came back negative, and he’s questionable for Game 3. If he can’t suit up, the Cavaliers could be in some trouble when it comes to guarding Paul George. If the Cavaliers roll with Iman Shumpert, they could be faced with spacing issues as Indy was comfortable leaving him wide open in the second half in Game 2. If the team starts Kyle Korver, LeBron James will probably have to draw the Paul George lineup, and that will be putting stress on LeBron that, to this point, the Cavaliers haven’t wanted to place on their star.
- Kyle Korver has been mostly punchless in this series, only getting up five shots in the first two games. I think the Cavaliers are a more dangerous team when Korver is involved, and it’s worth wondering if more time with the starters will allow him to get loose.
- Kevin Love had one of the best games of his Cavaliers career in Game 2, and it’ll be interesting to see how interested the Cavaliers are in getting him the ball, especially if the Pacers try to play small-ball again. That didn’t go so well for Lance Stephenson last time.
- The Cavaliers, uh, need to hold onto a lead once they get it. They’ve been brutal in the fourth quarter in both games of this series. Even though it hasn’t burned them yet, you can only play with fire for so long. The team will not be happy with themselves if they blow a valuable day or two of rest because they lost focus in crunch time.