Cleveland Cavaliers Begin Title Defense With Win Over Indiana Pacers

The Cavaliers beat the Pacers, 109-108, on April 15 at Quicken Loans Arena because a shot by IN guard C.J. Miles clanked off the left front side of the rim at the final horn. The Pacers took Cleveland's shot all afternoon, but still had an opportunity to win the game on the final possession.

Their regular-season issues followed the Cleveland Cavaliers into the playoffs. Miles, despite having a decent look, missed his shot slightly left.

As any smart team with a talent deficiency would do, the Pacers attacked the soft spots of their superior opponent.

"He missed", James said.

They haven't beaten the Cavaliers all season with LeBron James in the Cleveland line-up and James is 11-0 in first round playoff series, so a lot of history is going against the Pacers. He hit a triple to cut the Cavaliers' lead to just one on Indiana's second-to-last possession. Unfortunately for him, he made it back to the ground with the ball still in his hands as no teammate was open to pass to.

I got doubled, I swung it to D.J. Johnson - now, a much better shooter - but D.J. makes the shot. "In situations like that, I've got to get the last shot".

On the next Pacers possession, IN called a timeout and somehow didn't anticipate that Cleveland might try the same tactic if George got the ball again.

Miles didn't make any excuses. "Really the last month, we've been in the position where we needed our good player to do that in order for us to be standing here today. Once again, we just didn't make the final shot". Assists-Indiana 21 (George 7), Cleveland 26 (James 13). On the plus side, James tried out an adjusted free throw routine - one where he dips the ball slightly after getting set, before going up for his shot - and went 4-for-4 from the line to start before finishing 6-for-9. Kyrie Irving had 23 points and Kevin Love chipped in 17.

The Cavs had to go double overtime on April 2 to beat IN, 135-130, at The Q. Paul George scored 43 points for the Pacers IN that game.

The Cavs put their stamp on things with a 10-0 run late in the third quarter punctuated by a James dunk that sent the building into a tizzy as the four-time MVP batted his chest and gesticulated toward the crowd while in called timeout. They finished the third quarter with an 8 point lead over the Pacers.

"Do we feel vulnerable?"

"Hell, no", he snapped. However, the Pacers blew a chance to steal home court and you rarely get a second chance, especially against the defending champs.

They out-rebounded the Cavs 41-34, outscored Cleveland in the paint 46-42 and won the second-chance points battle 11-9.

"We just didn't flash high enough", said McMillan postgame. "I was happy with the emotion and energy we had". I think [Paul] made the right play. George said he trusts Miles but would prefer to take the shot himself. So if you're the best player on the floor, that doesn't mean you have to take the shot. When you're doubling me, I'm giving it up.

Stephenson was huge off the bench, providing points and attitude. Toronto finished 5 for 23 from long range, with the starting five going 1 for 13.

While it's hard to argue that taking the exact shot Cleveland wanted him to take was the prudent decision in crunch time, in will have to live with that kind of possession from time to time.

The miss itself wasn't bad; it was a good look from Miles. Indiana G Jeff Teague has no limitations from rolling his ankle in Wednesday's regular-season finale. He was previously with Atlanta, which was swept by Cleveland in 2015 and 2016. IN has been in playoff mode for weeks and George carried the Pacers down the stretch go to get them into the post-season by averaging 32.8 points, 8.2 rebounds and 4.5 assists during a 5-1 April.

  • Julie Sanders