Running thoughts: R1G1 – Pacers 98, Cavaliers 80

Victor Oladipo, Pacers

Here are my running thoughts from the Pacers’ 98-80 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers Sunday afternoon at Quicken Loans Arena.

It was game 1 of their best-of-seven first-round series.

  • LeBron-led teams enter this series with 21 consecutive first-round victories. They’re 48-7 all-time. His last loss was all the way back in 2012, to the New York Knicks when already leading 3-0.
  • The Pacers wore their gold uniforms, the Cavaliers dressed in black. All fans at The Q received a black t-shirt with the playoff slogan “Whatever it Takes”
  • LeBron opened the game defending Darren Collison, while Cavs point guard George Hill matched with Victor Oladipo. The thought there is for Hill’s length to hopefully both Vic, and allow LeBron to roam. (At the other end, Myles Turner guarded Jeff Green, Thad Young on Kevin Love.)
  • First possession of the game, 16 seconds in, Turner drains a mid-range jumper. That was done on purpose.
  • Cavaliers subbed four times before Nate McMillan made the first change to his lineup. They jumped ahead 18-4 via a 14-0 run.
  • LeBron clearly focused on getting his teammates involved and engaged early. He didn’t have a field goal in the first quarter, going 0 for 3, and it took him more than 10 minutes to fire up his first try.
  • Bojan Bogdanovic has done a nice job containing LeBron, even fronting him in the post.
  • As I stressed on the preview podcast, Pacers needed to stay in attack-mode and get to the rim. That they did, earning eight free throw attempts before the Cavs’ first try.
  • McMillan to ABC after the first 12 minutes: “Did a good job of being solid, keeping them out of transition.”
  • It was 33-14 after one, the Cavs’ lowest output in any quarter this season. Oladipo had 11.
  • After going 0-for-8 from 3-point land in the first quarter, George Hill opened up the second with a triple. That got them going. They went on to outscore the Pacers by two points in the second with LeBron scoring 12 of his 14 in the second frame.
  • ABC’s Lisa Salters interview Pacers President Kevin Pritchard during the second quarter, asking mostly about the team’s surprising season. Pritchard admitted that nobody in the front office predicted 40 wins. (They won 48 games.) It was a rare interview for KP, who prefers to remain quiet and in the background. (Here’s his last interview, right after the trade deadline in February.)
  • You see that black undershirt Trevor Booker wears? It’s to help with tendonitis in his shoulder.
  • The ABC broadcast discussed what I’ve mentioned several times here and on radio: the Pacers appeared on national TV just once, and that was for Paul George’s return to Indy. The Cavaliers, who have reached the NBA Finals in each of the last three years, were featured 39 times.
  • Lance has been a force for good. LeBron engaged with him in the second and won the battle, including a nifty swift spin move to get right to the hoop.
  • Cavs coach Ty Lue used a timeout 52 seconds into the second half after his team allowed two quick buckets at the rim. Pacers’ lead was 21 points. And the home crowd booed(61-39)
  • Everything at the rim… Indiana’s activity level is high and they keep attacking.
  • Pacers’ intensity and hustle reminds me of what Pritchard said on his first day as president: “You have to play tough, you have to play unselfish, you have to play the right way.”
  • Poor defensive play by Sabonis, who lunged at Kevin Love and fouled him on a 3-point field goal. Pacers’ lead shrunk to seven after the Cavs went on a 13-1 run.
  • Lance fouled LeBron at the rim and hit him across the head. It was deemed after the play, so he was assessed a technical foul rather than a flagrant. Stephenson led the Pacers in technical fouls during the regular season (8). Here’s the fine line between liking Lance’s energy and fight, but they can’t afford for him to cross the line.
  • Indiana’s offense was far too predictable to begin the fourth quarter. The guard, mostly Lance, brought it up and went one-on-one to the basket.
  • McMillan preached getting stops defensively and inserted Oladipo back in. Vic rewarded him with a three-pointer and then a long two.
  • Where the game changed: 10:29 left in the 4th. Cavaliers crawled back, down 76-69. Pacers scored 12 of the next 16 points, and then maintained a double-digit advantage. They never trailed and led by as many as 23.
  • LeBron recorded his 20th career playoff triple-double: 24-10-12.
  • Indiana improves to 8-0 this season when holding its opponent below 90 points.
  • Oladipo finished with a game-high 32 points. Last year in the only playoff series in his first four seasons, he scored 52 points over four games. Myles Turner had 16 points and eight rebounds, and Lance Stephenson added 12 and 5 off the bench.
  • Up next: Game 2 is on Wednesday at 7:00 pm and will air on FSI and TNT.

A quiet response/jab by LeBron at Lance:

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