The Indiana Pacers were not given much of a chance to make the playoffs at the beginning of the 2017-18 NBA season. After trading Paul George in the offseason, Indiana was mocked and most “experts” didn’t think the team would even win 35-40 games. Indiana finished the regular season with a 48-34 record and are the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs.
Fast forward to today’s playoff game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Nate McMillan and company were confident and looking to make a statement to the rest of the NBA. What is the statement that they wanted to make? We belong here.
LeBron James had won 21 straight first round playoff games heading into Game 1 against the Pacers. Things got ugly for the Cavaliers early, trailing 33-14 at the end of the first quarter. They made a push in the third and fourth quarters, but Victor Oladipo put the game away late and ended with 32 points on 11-19 from the field and 6-9 from behind the three-point arc.
Reporter: What do you think you showed people today with this win?
Victor Oladipo: "I don’t know what we showed people and I really don’t care”
— Jared Wade (@Jared_Wade) April 15, 2018
Not only did the Pacers take Game 1 and steal home-court advantage away from the Cavaliers, they proved to the rest of the league that they are for real. Whether the Pacers go on to win the series or not, they have definitely proven that they belong and have an incredibly bright future.
Looking ahead at the rest of the series, keeping LeBron down is not going to be an easy task for the Pacers. Indiana threw quite a few different looks at James defensively, including Bojan Bogdanovic, Lance Stephenson, Victor Oladipo, and even Thaddeus Young a couple times.
Offensively, the Pacers played with excellent pace and played well together as a team. The ball moved most of the game, although they did struggle at times to move the basketball during the Cavaliers’ runs.
A monster performance from Victor Oladipo gives the Pacers a Game 1 win over the Cavs.
It's LeBron's first Round 1 loss since 2012. pic.twitter.com/BSFqgaZcKR
— Yahoo Sports NBA (@YahooSportsNBA) April 15, 2018
Other players that played a big role for the Pacers today were Myles Turner with 16 points and eight rebounds, Bojan Bogdanovic with 15 points, and Lance Stephenson, who scored 12 points off the bench and played well defensively against James.
Game 2 will happen in Cleveland on Wednesday night. Indiana may not be given much of a chance to win this series even after taking Game 1, but if they can steal Game 2, the Cavaliers’ fanbase will be extremely nervous.