CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (53-31)
at INDIANA PACERS (42-42)
Tip-off: Thursday, 7:00 p.m. ET
Line: Cleveland -2.0, Total: 211.5
The Pacers will be looking to claw their way back into this series with a win over the Cavs in Game 3 on Thursday.
After beating the Pacers 109-108 as nine-point home favorites in Game 1, the Cavaliers beat them 117-111 as nine-point home favorites in Game 2. While Cleveland hasnít been covering in these games, the team has had some rather large leads in both contests. The Cavaliers will just need to find a way to hold onto those leads, which was a problem for them during the regular season as well. The difference in this series has been the poor play of Indiana on the defensive end. The Pacers have allowed the Cavs to shoot over 50.0% from the floor in both games thus far, and they are not going to win this series with that type of effort. Indiana has, however, played pretty well against Cleveland at home over the years. The Pacers are 4-2 SU and 5-1 ATS when facing the Cavs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse over the past three seasons, and theyíll be hoping their fans can give them a boost here as well. It is worth noting that Indiana is 8-0 ATS in April this season. The team is, however, up against a Cleveland group that is 33-18 ATS when playing only its second game in five days over the past two seasons. One injury worth pointing out is that SG J.R. Smith (Hamstring) is questionable for this one. He had to leave in Game 2, but itís hard to imagine him not going on Thursday.
The Cavaliers are up 2-0 in this series, but they know that they must win a game in Indiana in order to take control of this series. SF LeBron James (28.5 PPG, 10.0 APG, 8.0 RPG, 3.5 SPG, 2.0 BPG in playoffs) should have no trouble helping his team take one of these two, as he has been unstoppable in this series. James is making all of the right plays for Cleveland, and he has also been thriving as a roll-man in the pick-and-roll thus far. Nobody on Indiana wants to get in his way when he is heading towards the basket, so expect him to keep doing so moving forward. PG Kyrie Irving (30.0 PPG, 4.0 APG, 1.5 SPG in playoffs) is also unstoppable in his own right for this team. After really struggling in Game 1, Irving had 37 points on 14-for-24 shooting from the floor and 4-for-10 shooting from three in Game 2. Nobody on the Pacers is capable of guarding him in isolation, so expect the Cavaliers to let Kyrie do his thing a lot more often the rest of this series. Another guy that stepped his game up in Game 2 was PF Kevin Love (19.0 PPG, 11.1 RPG in playoffs). Love had 27 points and 11 boards son 6-for-7 shooting from the floor, 3-for-4 shooting from three, and 12-for-12 shooting from the line. If he can continue to turn in efficient performances then Cleveland will probably sweep Indiana in this series.
If the Pacers are going to win Game 3 then the team is going to need an extraordinary performance from SF Paul George (30.5 PPG, 7.0 APG, 6.5 RPG, 1.0 SPG in playoffs). George has not had a bad postseason in any way, shape, or form, but this team really doesnít have a lot on offense and 30.5 PPG from George is not cutting it. He has taken 19.5 shots per game in this series, and heíll likely need to take at least 25 shots per game moving forward. The Pacers also need both PG Jeff Teague (19.0 PPG, 4.0 APG in playoffs) and C Myles Turner (8.5 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 2.5 SPG, 1.5 BPG in playoffs) to be a lot better. Teague has been scoring just fine in the playoffs, but he is averaging just 4.0 APG in the playoffs after averaging 7.8 APG in the regular season. The team is counting on him to run the offense at a high level, so he would be wise to change his game a bit. Teague also needs to defend a lot better, as he was torched by Irving in Game 2. Turner, meanwhile, has been lousy offensively in this series. He is shooting just 36.4% from the floor and that will need to change if Indiana is going to have any chance.