With each game, the struggles of the Cleveland Cavaliers find a way to show up. It is safe to say that the Cavaliers are not playing up to their standards?
That may have been the lasting impression of those who watched the Cavaliers labor to put away the Indiana Pacers in Game 1 of their first round series. The Cavaliers’ 109-108 win over the Pacers is not indicative of how the game truly went.
Sure, the Cleveland Cavaliers got the much-needed victory over the Pacers. It took some late-minute heroics from Kyrie Irving, in the form of two steals in the waning moments to put the Pacers away. What was more alarming was the fact that the Cavaliers blew a 10-point, fourth quarter lead.
The Pacers had a 12-point turnaround to take a brief lead, before Kyrie Irving took matters into his own hands. If Irving had not stepped up in the clutch, the Cavaliers would have been in danger of wasting a magnificent performance by LeBron James.
LeBron James led all scorers with 32 points. He also handed out 13 assists, but that effort was barely enough. Had Indiana Pacers’ star Paul George not missed a key free throw down the stretch the game could have had a different outcome.
Even after missing one of two from the line, the Pacers had an opportunity to win the game. A questionable timeout by Pacers’ coach Nate McMillan allowed the Cavaliers to set up their defense, with designs on denying George the chance for a last-second shot. The Cavaliers were successful by double-teaming George.
They forced George to pass the ball to Pacers’ guard C.J. Miles. Miles, despite having a decent look, missed his shot slightly left.
After the game, Paul George admitted (courtesy of the Cleveland Plain Dealer) that he did not expect the Cavaliers to trap him on that possession, with 20 seconds remaining.
“Being up one and 20 seconds on the clock that was a surprise getting trapped. Usually you try to force a turnover there early.”
To have escaped the Indiana Pacers, the Cleveland Cavaliers were fortunate. It was a game that should not have been close in many people’s eyes. Now some are wondering if it is time to panic.
The Cavaliers seemed fine with a win. When given a chance to reflect, LeBron James reminded everyone that it is a long journey (courtesy of ESPN) to the NBA Finals.
“I’m happy we got the victory. I’m happy how emotional we was. I’m happy with the energy and the effort. Played with energy and effort all night…. Game 1 has always been a feel-out game for myself. Seeing what you can do, seeing ways you can get better, and you always go into Game 2 even more prepared because you want to see what type of game plan they have. As the series goes on and on, we start to know more about the team, more about your opponent and try to be better the next game. But, this was a great start for us.”
It was a great start in LeBron James’ eyes, but not what fans have grown to expect from the defending champions.
No one expects the Cavaliers to have a cakewalk to the NBA Finals. Not with an improved Eastern Conference. What is expected from the Cavaliers is that they tighten up the screws with the game on the line.
The Cleveland Cavaliers had the Indiana Pacers on the ropes with a 10-point fourth quarter lead, only to give it away and nearly lose the game. It is not time for the Cavaliers to panic, but it is worth noting that if the Pacers take Game 2, some eyebrows and doubts will be raised.
[Featured Image by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images]