Cleveland, which has played shorthanded for much of the current campaign, will need a similar output this postseason - particularly against a Pacers team that boasts one of the Eastern Conference's best backcourts. Obviously, their season, from the outside looking in, was more productive than ours because of what they went through in the offseason.
But James' Cavs swept the Pistons in the 2016 playoffs opener, and the Celtics in 2015. "We got to play one of the best teams that was orchestrated in those Miami Heat teams those last couple of years, but we could never get over the hump". Victor Oladipo, who was an All-Star this season and averaged 25 points on 47.2 percent shooting from 3-point territory as the Pacers went 3-1 against the Cavs this season, is joined by Darren Collison, who led the entire league in 3-point percentage shooting with a 46.8 percent clip for the season.
James assumed a massive workload during the regular season, but extra miles didn't slow him. But he does. Playoff LeBron is for real, and he can be absolutely devastating when he tries on defense.
In last season's sweep of the Pacers, he was just ridiculous.
In his 15th season, the four-time MVP averaged 27.5 points-his highest mark since 2009-10-and career highs of 9.1 assists and 8.6 rebounds per game while shooting 54.2 percent from the field. If James plays anywhere close to his peak, the Cavs should have relatively few problems.
So for the fourth time in recent memory the Pacers will be faced with the task of facing a LeBron-led team. However, James actually trying might lift them from terrible to merely mediocre. Over half (18) of Oladipo's points that night came via his six 3-pointers, an area that's caused problems for the Cavs.
The Cavaliers, the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference, open the playoffs with Game 1 of the conference quarterfinals on Sunday against the fifth-seeded Indiana Pacers. For Kevin Love and the Cleveland Cavaliers organization, it would be the fourth-straight. The veteran big man will serve as the team's small-ball center as the Cavs have gone all-in on offense.
This an interesting matchup. The Pacers, on the other hand, have been one of the NBA's biggest surprises. IN will need a big series from their young center and at least hang with Love to remain competitive. Making quick work of the Pacers would go a long way toward showing that the Cavs have momentum in their favor, while an extended struggle might be the onset of trouble ahead. Cleveland will have some different looks to throw at Dipo defensively, from Green to Hill to Hood.
So in reality, the Cleveland team that takes the court against in will be one that in no way resembles the struggling entity that competed during the regular season.
"LeBron is a freak of his own", Oladipo said this week. They are the two stars and they will be asked to do a lot of heavy lifting for the duration of the series.
Who is most likely to win the 2018 NBA Championship? For the Cavs, Love will probably flirt with a double-double given the Pacers' weakness on the boards. I have not looked at the odds in Vegas, but I am sure they are not good.
As for the Pacers, don't sleep on Thaddeus Young. He averaged 32 points, nine rebounds, nine assists, three steals and two blocks as Cleveland swept IN en route to a third straight conference crown.