2017 NBA Playoffs
LeBron James vs Paul George is the premiere East matchup in the 2017 NBA Playoffs (David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)

The second-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers take on the seventh seed Indiana Pacers in the first round of the 2017 NBA playoffs. LeBron once again will be matched up against the Pacers led by Paul George and the recently returned Lance Stephenson. This time around brings a much different circumstance where LeBron faces a Pacers team who just barely made it into the playoffs. What will it take for each team to come out of this series alive? Let’s breakdown each teams chances to win this series.

2017 NBA Playoffs

Cleveland Cavaliers vs Indiana Pacers

Factors for Cavs to Win the Series

2017 NBA Playoffs
LeBron James rallies the Cavs (Jason Miller/Getty Images)

It’s no secret the Cavs are the superior team in this series, talent wise. We are talking about the reigning NBA champs led by LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love. The issue is they haven’t played well as of late going 4-6 in their last ten games. Still, the Cavs are a force to be reckoned with and are often still predicted as the favorite to win the East. LeBron and company bring a plethora of veteran experience that can turn it on in a flash.

The Cavs need to come into this series against the Pacers ready to get to business. What that means is the Cavs shouldn’t get too caught up in the storylines, Born Ready antics, or buy into the idea that they are vulnerable. If the Cavs come out of the gates run their offense and just dominate the game with their superior talent, the Pacers will wear down. When the Cavs are running on all cylinders and running a clean offense they are nearly unbeatable. Get this team out on the open court and playing unselfishly, it’s very hard to beat:

via GIPHY

Now this Pacers team will be feisty, but out in the open court, they will have no answer for the Cavs athleticism and talent. What the Cavs can’t do is let off the gas, in their last 10 games multiple times they were up but let up on the intensity and allowed the other team to come back and win the game. In the playoffs and against a team like the Pacers who are not only a divisional rival but a team with history against LeBron they will be looking for any chance to take a swing at the Cavs. The Pacers have been playing much better recently, so there is confidence there. The Cavs simply can’t let the Pacers get the upper hand in momentum. When you are the big dog, you squash the opponent before they can start.

Oh yeah, and some of this will help:

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Cavs injuries: Kyrie Irving recently battled some knee issues but he should be good to go in the 2017 NBA Playoffs.

Factors for Pacers to Win the Series

2017 NBA Playoffs
Paul George (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

The Pacers come into these playoffs at an interesting time. They were on the verge of missing the playoffs and were quite often labeled a “boring” team who didn’t have much to look forward to. Stuck in mediocrity and having Paul George question the toughness of the team, something had to be done. In comes Lance Stephenson. Not only did he return, but he has bolstered the second unit and helped the Pacers to finish the season on a 5 game winning streak. These Pacers are finally playing as a team and come into the playoffs with a little swagger of their own:

via GIPHY

The key for these Pacers is to have fun and play loose. The advantage as the 7-seed is you have nothing to lose, just go out there and throw everything you have at the Cavs. Be creative, make crisp passes, throw some different looks at them. Heck, put Stephenson on LeBron a few times to get into his head. Instill doubt into the Cavs who have been struggling. The Pacers don’t hold much of a strategic advantage over the Cavs, so they need to come with energy and make everything difficult for the Cavs. If guys like Teague, George, and Stephenson get out in the open and can make plays that will ignite the team. Create energy and the upset will be in play. Play the underdog role and thrive off it.

This Pacers team at times tends to get lost on offense and lose its fire though. The up and down play of the Pacers is exactly how they ended up with such a mediocre seeding. If the Pacers can avoid those down periods of intensity and keep it up, the potential is there for them to play above the level that their seed indicates.

Also, when you get that Paul George guy going things like this happen:

via GIPHY

Pacers Injuries: Jeff Teague (ankle, day-to-day), Al Jefferson (ankle, day-to-day), Glenn Robinson III (calf, out).

Series X-Factors

2017 NBA Playoffs
Kevin Love (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

For the Cavs, the X-Factor is Kevin Love. The Pacers lack a defender and rebounder that can truly keep him in check, so he has the opportunity to go off in this series. He will most likely be matched up with a combination of Thadeus Young, Kevin Seraphin, and Glenn Robinson III. None of those guys strike fear on the defensive side, so if there is anywhere the Cavs can take advantage it will be from the 4-spot.

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As noted earlier, the Cavs will be best to get out on the fast break. And if you weren’t aware, Kevin Love is like a quarterback on the fast break throwing perfect full-court dimes to his teammates. Those passes, as seen above, will be essential in creating fast break opportunities.

2017 NBA Playoffs
Myles Turner (Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports)

As for the Pacers, Myles Turner is where the Pacers could take a crack at the Cavs armor. Myles Turner is a budding star and the second-year player will be a huge asset for the Pacers against the Cavs frontcourt. If there is any weakness to the Cavs, it is interior defense. Tristan Thompson is a solid rebounder and good overall athlete, but overall he isn’t the rim protector the Cavs could use. This is where Turner can do some work and dominate the paint. If Turner and company can establish themselves in the paint then that opens up space for the guards to do their own work leaving the Cavs in a tough position defensively.

Furthermore, Myles Turner is a rim protector himself. It will be a major factor in keeping guys like Kyrie and LeBron from driving and creating offense for their shooters. And it’s worth remembering one of the plays that put Myles Turner on the map was at the expense of LeBron James :

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Prediction

The Cavs are running into a team that has been reenergized and is on a winning streak. It won’t be an easy out and everybody knows the Pacers love to play LeBron. This will be a hard fought series where emotions will run high, but in the end, the Cavs are flat out the better team. The Pacers will make every game count, though.

Series prediction: Cavs win the series 4-1

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