We’ve all had some time now to come back down to Earth after the Indiana Pacers stormed into Cleveland and shut down the defending conference champs. The Pacers were more than convincing with their 98-80 road victory and were media darlings for the Monday morning talking heads. For most Pacers fans, this game was no surprise, but appeared to be jarring for anyone and everyone who seemed to forget the Pacers were a franchise.
So...what’s next? There’s still a long series ahead and work to be done. The Pacers would be the first to tell you that. In fact, they all continued their subdued, next game focused, almost formulaic press conferences after the blowout victory. Where do we go from here?
Feel Proud and Vindicated
Pacers fans dealt with all sorts of trolling and became something of a punchline last summer after Kevin Pritchard sent Paul George away in the ever-debatable PG for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis trade. Even beyond the trade and throughout the season, the Pacers were given one nationally broadcast game and were given no chance in this series against the Cavs. Considering the lowest of lows that Indy fans endured with the Colts in tear-down mode and PG not wanting to play here, yeah...go ahead and celebrate. We’ve earned that.
Read the Victor Oladipo Player’s Tribune Article
You can read that here. Be sure to bring a tissue, especially if you’re an Indiana Hoosiers fan. Take special note of how protective he is of Sabonis. We are in great hands.
Understand What’s Waiting for the Pacers in Game Two
A very angry LeBron James on two days rest. What is always said when a team plays on the road in a playoff series? You just need to steal one. The Pacers have already done that in dramatic fashion and quite honestly, they embarrassed the Cavs. The Cavs shot 38 percent from the floor and 23 percent from beyond the arc. That will not likely happen again and I don’t see a world where LeBron lets it happen two games in a row. Cleveland will make adjustments and don’t be surprised if they come out firing right out of the gate. I would imagine JR Smith gets a start after 15 points on Sunday.
Pack the House
Come Friday and Sunday, Bankers Life Fieldhouse needs to be smothered in Blue and Gold. There is no excuse for anyone to hear a Cavaliers fan during either one of those games. Pacers fans need to show up and defend our house. You know Lance Stephenson will play better if we all do.
Now, what do the Pacers need to do? I wish it could be as easy as copy and paste from game one, but the Cavs will look different from Sunday.
Swarm the Jump Shooters
I’ll do something the national media has failed to do, credit the Pacers suffocating defense. This is the main reason the Pacers were able to hold Cleveland to 80 points. The closing speed they presented from Oladipo to Booker was nothing short of impressive. It did not go unnoticed either, as color analyst Jeff Van Gundy mentioned it several times throughout the broadcast.
If LeBron Gets Behind You, Foul Him
Bojan Bogdanovic was able to do this on two different occasions and LeBron would miss three of four free throws. LeBron can and typically will dominate, build an apartment, and have a three-course dinner in the paint. If the Pacers can close it off, LeBron turns into a distributor. While he is still one of the best at doing so, I’ll take my money on his teammates taking a shot rather than him. Is it a perfect gameplan? Not by any means, but it seemed to work just fine in game one.
Born Ready Needs to Stay Ready
Lance Stephenson set the tone early and immediately got into LeBron’s head, causing him to... face flop I guess we’ll call it. For some reason, Lance gets on his nerves. The Pacers need to do everything they can to keep him there. It’s a bit comical that the best player on the planet feels the need to overreact to everything a backup guard does, but we’ll take what we can get. Offensively, the Pacers should keep him in there as long as he has control. It seems like LeBron won’t be happy until he gets Lance thrown out of a game, but he’ll continue to embarrass himself in the process. But hey, at least we’ll get more memes from it.
Feed Oladipo and Turner
This was by far the calmest we have seen Myles Turner in a playoff game thus far in his career. He settled in early and ended up with 16 points on 6/9 shooting. I want to see his role expanded in game two. The Pacers are better when he gets ten shots or more per game. What more can we say about Oladipo? 32 points and absolutely lethal from behind the arc. The Pacers finally have a cold-blooded killer on their team. This is his team and his city. We are just along for the ride.
With all things considered, this is a winnable series and I have been saying that for months. The Pacers are up to the challenge at least after game one. This moment is not too big for them. If they keep the gas pedal down, maybe then they won’t be slept on much longer.
For the fans, let’s just enjoy this ride. We weren’t supposed to be here and this team is so easy to cheer for. It’s probably a good thing for cardiac’s sake that there is a two day break between the first two games of this series. Stay hyped and stay ready. Wednesday is almost here.