Cavaliers bounce back from loss

The Cleveland Cavaliers have had a rocky start to the 2018 NBA Playoffs, dropping the first game against the Indiana Pacers 98-80 in Quicken Loans Arena. The Pacers were in full control from the beginning, jumping out to a 33-14 lead at the end of the first quarter, effectively setting the tone for the rest of the game.

For LeBron James, this was his first loss in the opening round in 21 first-round games, last losing as a member of the Miami Heat. Despite losing the impressive streak, James still played a solid overall game, registering his 20th career playoff triple-double with 24 points and 12 assists to go along with 10 rebounds. Despite James’ efforts, the best player on the court was Pacers guard Victor Oladipo. Oladipo finished with 32 points and was able to score at any time that he wanted throughout the contest. Cleveland simply had no answer on the defensive side of the game to stop him.

While James and the Cavaliers had previously mentioned this game was not going to be as easy as some people may have thought, I don’t think anyone expected the Pacers to come into Cleveland and simply outplay the Cavs. The Pacers played with more energy and effort and it showed throughout the night. Obviously, this series is far from over.

The Cavaliers were able to bounce back from the loss with a 100-97 win in game two, evening the series at one apiece. James paced the team with 46 points and 12 rebounds. The Cavs completely dominated the Pacers in the first half, with James scoring the team’s first 16 points and having 29 points at halftime. Regardless of the deficit, the Pacers did not go down without a fight, clawing back from an 18-point deficit to be down only by three, 95-92.

However, Oladipo missed a wide open three-pointer with 27 seconds to tie it and the Cavs held on for dear life. Oladipo ended up scoring 22 points, while Pacers center Myles Turner chipped in 18 points. For the Cavaliers, center Kevin Love scored 15 and Kyle Korver added 12 points, all on three-pointers.  

While the Cavaliers won the game, they relied heavily on James to keep up the scoring. Even with his 46 points, the team won by a small margin of three points. With Love re-injuring his previously broken left hand, the Cavaliers may not have him for game three or even the entire series. This may become a problem, as Love has been the only other consistent scorer for the Cavs.

Korver proved himself worthy of his spot in the starting lineup, but the rest of the starters, especially point guard George Hill, need to step up. Bench production needs to increase also, especially with point guard Jordan Clarkson. In terms of defense, the team needs to find a way to slow down Oladipo, as he has scored over 20 points in each of the two matchups. They have improved, though, by limiting Oladipo to 2-8 shooting from three. The Cavs will also need to find a new rim protector who can battle down low with Turner and prevent his paint domination.

Game two is a starting blueprint for the Cavs, as they look to build on the win. It will interesting to see how the team can play on the road at Indianapolis in a more hostile environment.