By Griffin Finch
Going into the playoffs and especially after the Pacers dominant game one victory, it was a real possibility in the minds of many that LeBron James may not make it out of the first round for the first time in his illustrious career. Victor Oladipo put the Cavs on notice with 32 points and let them know that they would not roll over to the greatness of LeBron. They gave the Cavaliers all they could handle and then some, but ultimately lost in the final minutes of game seven.
The Indiana Pacers played very well as a collective unit throughout this series often playing as a team greater than the sum of its parts. Coach Nate McMillan deserves a lot of credit. Especially on the defensive end of the floor where they held Cleveland to well below there season scoring average. On offense, Oladipo displayed his brilliance as he got to the basket at will and often converted it into points, got to the free throw line or passed the ball making plays for his teammates. They got solid contributions from everywhere, all players including Myles Turner, Thaddeus Young, and Lance Stephenson to name a few. Not to mention a 30 point explosion from Bojan Bogdanovic in game three. Through three games and 40 minutes, the Pacers were the better team in the series. But ultimately they seemed to have lost focus in the waning moments of the final game. Personally, I attribute that to the overall youth of the team and them never having been in a position like that before. I give them credit for making it as far as they did against the greatest player in the world.
For Cleveland, it was the LeBron James show for seven straight games. He pulled his team kicking and screaming to a round one victory. The supporting cast was absolutely anemic. Not one time in the entire series did anyone other than LeBron score more than 20 points. This forced him to play an average of 41 minutes per game and play out of his mind the entire time. LeBron was carrying such a load for them that at the end of the third quarter in game seven, he had to go back to the locker room to address cramps that had developed in his legs. The King was superhuman in this series. It was most evident in the series clinching game in which LeBron scored 45 points, grabbed 9 rebounds and recorded 7 assists. No one else scored more than 15 points when LeBron needed their help the most. The Cavaliers were lucky to make it out of the first round. But when you’re the greatest in the world, I guess you make your own luck.
Looking forward, the Pacers understand that they are a very good young team. This summer they need to add one or two all-star caliber players if they are interested in contending for the title. I expect the young talent especially Oladipo and Turner to come into next season much improved from this year ready to lead their team on a deeper playoff run. For Cleveland, they go on to face the Toronto Raptors who are an undisputedly better basketball team. The Raptors are the heavy favorites in the series. The question is after playing 41 minutes per game in round one, how much does LeBron have left in the tank? It is not a hyperbole to say that the Cavaliers only go as far as LeBron takes them. Even if he plays out of this world again, I still don’t know if it will be enough to get them past Toronto.