Reggie Miller, Kevin McHale discuss Pacers-Cavaliers

The Pacers and Cleveland Cavaliers will square off in the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs with Game 1 set for Saturday afternoon.

Second-seeded Cleveland (51-31) lost four in a row to conclude the season whereas Indiana (42-40) ran off five straight wins to clinch the seventh seed in the last game of the regular season.

Because it’s LeBron James and the reigning champs, these games haven’t been pushed to NBA TV. They are on the NBA’s featured networks: ABC and TNT. [Click here for the full schedule.] Game 1 and 4 will appear on ABC, and then TNT will televise both Game 2 and 3.

On Thursday, Turner Sports made Hall of Famers Reggie Miller and Kevin McHale available on a conference call with reporters. Read what they had to say below.

Reggie Miller on the Cavs’ lackluster end to the regular season:

I don’t know if this is coach talk, because Kevin [McHale] has been a coach as well as a Hall of Fame player, but you hear this all the time: The game of basketball or whatever sport you’re in, it can’t be a light switch, you can’t turn it on and off. But if you look at the recent play of Cleveland, it’s kind of head-scratching because they have so much ability and talent on that team. I know they had a rash of injuries throughout the course of the year, but the inconsistent play – especially at the defensive end, and this is coming from the World Champions – it’s has been a little head-scratching.

If you’re Paul George and you’re Indiana, maybe you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. You just hope there it’s not a train coming down there, that train being LeBron James. To beat LeBron James and to beat the Cavs four times, it is such a tall order. But, I love the matchup of Paul George versus LeBron James. We just saw 10 days ago the matchup, in Cleveland, in (double) overtime, when both guys put up ridiculous numbers.

To me, it’s about supporting casts: I don’t like last night seeing Jeff Teague go down with the tweaked ankle. He’s gonna need to be 100 percent going against Kyrie Irving so right there, there’s the advantage for the Cavaliers. How healthy will Jeff Teague be throughout this whole series? But again, it’s beating LeBron James, Kevin Love, Kyrie four times? It’s a really tall order for Indiana, but I love the matchup of Paul George versus LeBron James.

McHale on the Cavaliers

They look really disjointed. In the first game against San Antonio, they didn’t even try which is really odd to see. They were just going through the motions. And they came out at halftime and they played a little harder. And they came back and had a great game against Boston in that stretch. They’ve been up and down.

The thing that concerns me the most about it is that [Cavaliers head coach] Ty Lue has just been trying to say, ‘Hey, when the playoffs come, we’re going to flip the switch and stuff.’ But I heard players say, ‘Nah, we’re not together right now. We’re not playing well. We need more games. We need to play, we don’t need to sit and we don’t need to rest.’ So there’s a little disharmony about how everybody feels and [it could affect] how well they play going into the playoffs.

Indiana, a lot like Chicago, had a disappointing season honestly. I thought they’d be better. And they have a chance to change all that and put a whole different spin on their season with a great seven-game series against Cleveland.

I would take Cleveland in this series. I think beating a LeBron James team with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, and their supporting cast four times out of seven is going to be hard. But I’m really interested in seeing if Cleveland can flip the switch and then destroy like 50 years of coach-speak and say ‘Don’t ever try to do that’ by just playing poorly going into the playoffs and once you get into the playoffs, playing really well.

It should be a really fun matchup. I think Indiana’s got to say, ‘OK, we got a chance. They’re playing poorly and we’re playing well.’

Miller on the Cavs’ vulerability

Everyone loves an underdog and everyone loves an upset. To me, will it happen versus Indiana? A lot of things have to factor in and a lot of things have to fall into place. But if LeBron James is healthy, and we’ve seen this the last two years, when he didn’t have Kyrie or Kevin Love in the finals, he put on a show even though they lost to the Golden State Warriors. …

To me it’s a tall order for Indiana. It’s great on the outside looking in, what’s wrong with Cleveland and all of the circumstances that have surrounded that team. But at the end of the day, we are in a new season now — the real season. And a lot of times when you’re the defending champion, you’re just looking to get to the playoffs to turn on that switch. Maybe that’s what Cleveland was doing. They know that they dominated Toronto and Boston in the postseason over the last few years. So (Cleveland) is thinking, ‘OK, so what if we start on the road? We know if we go into your building and dominate.

As long as they stay healthy, to me coming out of the East it’s all about LeBron James and Cleveland.

McHale continued…

I don’t like the way Cleveland is playing the way going in. I don’t believe that you just flip a switch. I think you got to flip it periodically throughout the entire year at big times. But I wouldn’t bet against them.

I still think if they come out and just put a beatdown on the Pacers, everybody in the league will take notice, believe me. Golden State will be taking notice all the way on the west coast.

Miller on whether Paul George deserves to be voted on one of six All-NBA forward spots

Absolutely he’s done enough. I thought the Pacers would be better this year. I had them as a top four team [in the Eastern Conference] this year, especially with the new additions. But they’ve faltered, and Paul George faltered early. But if you look at his numbers, especially in the second half [of the season], the reason why the Pacers are playing this well or are even in the seventh spot, is because of Paul George.

Certainly he is deserving of one of those top three forward spots [in the All-NBA vote]. It’ll be interesting if he does make it, I know there’s numbers attached to it which I do not like. You’re allowing the media to kind of control what’s in your contract, but he’s certainly deserving of that.

[Paul George hopeful to be voted on All-NBA team]

McHale on George and All-NBA

I’d agree, I think Paul George is deserving.

Lance Stephenson has injected life into the Pacers. They are 5-1 since he re-signed. [Frank McGrath/PS&E]

Miller on Lance Stephenson

Don’t we all want to sit back and see Lance Stephenson blow in the ear of LeBron James once again? Come on, now! You guys know you want to see that. I want to see what Lance is going to do, Lance being Lance.

Okay, maybe not blow in the ear. But you do need x-factors on teams. When games become a little bit dirty, gritty, grimy — not dirty plays, let me clarify that — you need guys to go over the line a little bit. Lance kind of goes over the line a little bit. I don’t agree with some things, like the game in hand [against Toronto] and him going in and making a layup, I don’t agree with that.

But there’s other things that he does that may have crossed the line that sometimes you’ve got to have players like that. Like my Davis boys, like a Charles Oakley, like a Buck Williams, like a Cedric Maxwell, like a Dennis Rodman, you’ve got to have players that do little things that motivate not only your team, but to get your fan base involved.

McHale on Stephenson

What people like Lance Stephenson do for your team is they do cross lines, but then they make you as a team rally around him.

OK, so he lays the ball in. … We were playing a team and they didn’t get back and we laid it in. And the other team started yelling. ‘So us beating you by 17 is okay by 19 is unacceptable?’ I just started laughing. And the whole team started yelling.

Okay, we’re up 17 and you lay it in with two seconds to go in the game and that makes you mad? You should have been fighting harder to not let it get to 17 down late in the game. And it made everybody rally around each other, everybody goes shoulder-to-shoulder and you start barking at the other team.

And even if you really don’t think the guy did something right or you think, ‘Ah man, don’t do that.’ Once he does it, he’s your teammate and it just rallies your team around that, and I just think Indiana needs some of that rallying. I never saw that team this year, which I thought would be better, just come together shoulder-to-shoulder and say, ‘Man, you know what, let’s go. You want to fight, let’s go.’ And Lance brings some of that whether you like it or not.

He’s going to do something that’s going to make somebody mad, that’s going to make all of the Indiana guys stand by side. When you play basketball, and that’s what I love about this game, it’s us versus them. And you’re either us or you’re them, there’s no in between once that games starts. He forms that us, and it might give them a spark that they haven’t had all year long and maybe Lance is the gasoline or matches. I don’t know which one he’d be, but something to get the fire going.

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