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NBA Playoffs: The Pacers Can Win this Series

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CJ Miles missed the game-winning shot as time expired in the Pacers 109-108 loss to the Cavaliers. After the game Paul George said “In situation like that I’ve got to take the last shot,” when referring to Miles final shot.

NBA: Playoffs-Indiana Pacers at Cleveland Cavaliers
Lance Stephenson (6) drives past Kyrie Irving (2) in second quarter of game one. Stephenson had 16 points on 8-13 shooting.
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Paul George dominated the game at times and looked liked the best player on the court. Game one didn’t go the Pacers way but if you are a fan you should be encouraged by what you saw. The problem with Indiana, just like most of the regular season, was on the defensive end. LeBron James picked apart the defense with his elite level passing and pick n’ roll game.

My initial take away from the game was the Cavaliers are nowhere as good as they were last year or even two years ago. LeBron is much less effective on the offensive end and they rely way too much on the screen and’ switch play when LeBron has the ball.

The Pacers have a lot more fight in them then it seemed earlier in the year. Game one should of been a Cleveland blowout. Cleveland was up 12 points going into the fourth quarter. Cleveland has a better bench than Indiana, especially when Aaron Brooks plays. But, somehow the Pacers fought there way back and had a legitimate chance to win the game. On the final play CJ miles should have thrown it back to Paul George with 3 seconds left to let George take a game winning shot while in stride.

Sadly that didn’t happen but the Pacers only need to take one game in Cleveland to have a chance to win this series. I think Indiana can win game two like many of Paul George’s team have done. But for the Pacers to win they have to make an adjustment.

The Pacers main problem arose on the defensive end. On the Irving-LeBron screen n’ switch, or any switch with whoever Jeff Teague was guarding, Teague was bullied. I want to start by saying Teague is a great offensive player. He’s an elite level passer and the best point guard the Pacers have had since Jamaal Tinsley, however; he is a complete liability on defense in this series.

When the Cavaliers run there screen and switch with Irving-LeBron, Jeff Teague becomes a liability, similar to the way Steph Curry was in last years NBA Finals. Teague can guard Irving but can’t come close to even being moderately effective against LeBron.

The Pacers either have to hide Teague on someone like Richard Jefferson or Channing Frye, add help defense that could leave another Cavalier open for three, or bench Teague. Indiana could bench Jeff Teague for Lance Stephenson. This probably seems crazy considering Stephenson has been on the Pacers less than three weeks and Teague has been the Pacers second best player this season.

If the Pacers play Stephenson over Teague it would show head coach Nate McMillan has Larry Bird’s trust. The NBA playoffs are different than the regular season. Head coaches have to make tough decisions that may not seem traditional because you have to mask your team's weakness the best way possible.

Jeff Teague is a better and far more consistent player on offense then Lance Stephenson. However, Lance has the size and speed to guard LeBron and Kyrie while Teague does not.

The Pacers crunch time lineup should be Lance-Miles-George-Young-Turner. This lineup gives Indiana the ability switch anybody at all times. It creates a positionless basketball for the Pacers. The weakest point of Indiana’s team in this lineup is Thaddeus Young. As we saw at the end of the game Young, because of his size, can at least competently guard LeBron.