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Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Indiana Pacers Game 4 game preview

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Down 2-1, the Cavs fight for survival in Indianapolis.

NBA: Playoffs-Cleveland Cavaliers at Indiana Pacers Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

After losing Friday and going down 2-1, the Cavaliers head into Sunday’s Game 4 needing a win and needing to change the momentum of the series. A win puts the Cavaliers even at 2-2 and gives them back homecourt advantage. A loss puts them down 3-1. And going down 3-1 in the first round is a lot different than going down 3-1 to the Warriors.

Who: Cleveland Cavaliers at Indiana Pacers, Game 4

Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse - Indianapolis, Indiana

When: 8:30 p.m.

TV: TNT

Enemy Blog: Indy Cornrows

Cavaliers injuries: George Hill (QUESTIONABLE – back)

Pacers injuries: None

3 keys to game

  • Kevin Love has to be better than he was in the second half. Until he hit a three-pointer with seven seconds remaining, Love was borderline unplayable as he committed multiple turnovers, was knocked off the ball and committed offensive fouls. Love, due to how he plays and how the Cavs use him, is not going to take over a game the way Kyrie Irving did. But he is the best option the Cavs have to take the pressure off of LeBron James. Love having a lower usage rate in the second half than Rodney Hood, George Hill, J.R. Smith and Kyle Korver can’t happen again, regardless of why it happened.
  • Hill’s health heading into Game 4 is going to be key. His aggression in the first half was a major reason why Cleveland got out to a lead early and took some of the pressure off of James. His minutes in the second half, though, were limited due to back issues that, per The Athletic’s Jason Lloyd, made it difficult for him to bend over after the game. If he can’t go, or is limited, it presents a number of issues for the Cavs. For one, it means James has to do even more. Secondly, it means the Cavs have to get minutes out of Jordan Clarkson and/or Jose Calderon — neither of whom have played well in the playoffs and will be defensive liabilities.
  • Aside from James (who was 4-of-7 from three) and Love (who was 3-of-5), the Cavs need other players to shoot well on three-pointers. Specifically, Korver going 0-of-3, Smith going 2-of-8 and Hill going 0-of-2 does nothing to make Indiana pay less attention to James. Hood, who was 4-of-8 in Game 3, was 0-of-3 from three. If the Cavs’ role players take a step up in Game 4, and take advantage of open looks, it’ll matter and allow James more space to operate.

Key matchup

Amid the Cavs’ many issues in Game 3, J.R. Smith’s foul trouble is one that might go overlooked. In that last two games as a starter, he’s done as well as the Cavs could have hoped in defending Victor Oladipo. When the Cavs trap, he goes to the right position and hasn’t been the reason Oladipo gets free. When he defends Oladipo one vs. one, he’s done a decent job at contesting shots and not letting Oladipo get easy looks. At times, the Cavs have almost let him operate on too much of an island without support from whoever is in the paint. An example:

If Smith can maintain this effort, and stay out of foul trouble, it’ll help a Cavs’ defense that has mostly been fine in the series so far.

Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction

The Cavs can’t go down 3-1 to the Pacers, right? Right? Cavs 97, Pacers 90.