Pacers roll by Cavs in Game 1, 98-80

Indiana dominates from opening tap despite LeBron's triple-double

Daryl Ruiter
April 15, 2018 - 6:10 pm
Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) and Indiana Pacers guard Lance Stephenson (1) in the second quarter in game one of the first round of the 2018 NBA Playoffs

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports


Cleveland, OH (92.3 The Fan) – To say the Cleveland Cavaliers didn’t do ‘Whatever it takes’ in Game 1 against the Indiana Pacers Sunday afternoon would be an understatement.

The Pacers took it to the Cavs from the opening tip and never trailed to take a 1-0 series lead.

"They came in and they dictated the tempo," forward LeBron James, who recorded his 20th career playoff triple-double, said. "They were more aggressive."

Cleveland trailed by as many as 23 in the third quarter and climbed to within 7 with 10:29 left in the fourth, but that was as close at they could get in a 98-80 loss to Indiana to fall behind in the best-of-7 series.

"You can't ease into the playoffs," Cavs head coach Tyron Lue said. "I thought they came in and they attacked us, hit us first and we were never able to recover. You can't ease into the game."

Victor Oladipo led everyone with a playoff career-high 32 points for Indiana in the victory that saw him hit 6 3s and make 11 of 19 shots overall. 

"We wanted to establish pace, control tempo," Pacers head coach Nate McMillan said. "I thought we did that throughout the game."  

The Cavs didn't help their own cause one bit. They shot just 38.5 percent from the field (30-78), including 8 of 34 from 3, and they made just 12 of 20 free throws.

Indiana turned 17 Cavs turnovers into 20 points and Cleveland only registered 5 second-chance points in the loss.

James finished with 24 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds in 44 minutes but got little help from his teammates as only 2 other Cavs scored in double figures - 15 from J.R. Smith and 10 from Larry Nance Jr. Kevin Love had 9 points and 17 rebounds in the loss. 

"They were more aggressive," James said. "They just played inspired basketball and they just took advantage of everything we wanted to try and do."

Forward Jeff Green went 0-7 from the field in 26 minutes.

Cleveland swept Indiana, who won the regular season series 3-1 this year, in the opening round a year ago, but they won the 4 games by a combined 16 points.

There will be no sweep this year.

"We believe that we can win," Oladipo said. "We came into this game with a mentality that we wanted to attack on both ends of the floor and play the way we've been playing all year, and we did a great job of that. It's only one game, it's only Game 1."

Cold start – The Cavs made life difficult for themselves by digging an early hole. They made just 2 of their first 12 shots and were 0-6 from 3. Korver and Love each started 0-3 causing the Cavs to fall behind 18-4 with just over 4 minutes left in the opening quarter.

They never warmed up. 

James’ first unofficial shot attempt came with 1:52 left in the opening quarter that saw him fouled and make a pair of free throws. His first official shot attempt came on a 3 that he missed on the very next offensive possession.

"That's just how the game was being played," James said when asked why it took so long for him to attempt a field goal. "I was trying to get guys in the right places. There were 2 on the ball at times. I was assisting and guys just couldn't make shots to start the game. So it was just how the game was flowing."

The Cavs shot just 25 percent (5-20 including 0-8 from 3) in the first quarter and it didn’t get better in the second.

For every Cavs run, the Pacers had an answer before half and the visitors led 55-38 after 2. Cleveland made just 2 of 14 from 3 and 15 of 41 shots overall in the first 24 minutes.  

The Cavs trailed by 26 in Game 3 last year at Indiana and came back to win. No such luck Sunday.

LeBron’s streak ends – James lost the opening game of the playoffs for the first time in his career Sunday. It was also the first time he lost in round 1 since May 6, 2012, a streak of 21 consecutive wins in the opening round.

James feigned surprise when told he’d never trailed 0-1 in the first round in his NBA Career.

"Is it?" James said. "I've never lost a game in the first round before in my career?"

James did pass Michael Jordan for the second-most playoff field goals made in league history with his seventh make, which came in the fourth quarter on a spin move to the basket that cut the Pacers’ lead to 7 at 76-69 with 10:29 to play.

Hood for Korver – Hood started at shooting guard in place of Kyle Korver Sunday, his first career playoff start and he scored 9 points in 20:34.

Hood had to head to the bench with 8:36 left in the first quarter after picking up 2 quick fouls. Korver, who was on a minutes restriction because he’s still feeling soreness in his foot according to Lue, replaced him. It would be the only playing time Korver would get.

Korver only saw the floor for 3:38 in the first quarter and went 0-3 from the field.

"He will play more next game," Lue said. "Just thought when the game got out of hand and we went small trying to be faster on the floor to switch pick-and-rolls and give them a different look and then at that time sitting there that long I didn't want to risk it so yeah."

Hood averaged 8.9 points off the bench in 11 playoff games for Utah last season.

Fuel to the fire – Cavs owner Dan Gilbert said last summer "that Indiana could've done better than it did" following the Paul George trade to Oklahoma City that brought back Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis after the Pacers backed out of a 3-team trade with Cleveland. 

Oladipo, who was 11 of 19 from the field with 6 3s, was "aware" of Gilbert's comments. 

"You could say it added fuel to the fire, I guess you could say," Oladipo said. "But that was so long ago. It came up recently, obviously, because we were playing the Cavs in the series, but I'm aware of what he said. Can't control his opinion. All I'm focused on is myself and becoming the best Victor Oladipo possible."

Full deck – For the first time since a flurry of trade deadline deals on Feb. 8, Sunday’s game marked the first time Tyronn Lue had a full roster at his disposal.

"It's good to have everyone healthy," Lue said. "We talked about it all year, just going into the postseason with all of our guys healthy. Nothing tricky, nothing new. Just getting our guys on the floor, letting them play at 100 percent is the thing we wanted to do this year. Everyone with the exception of Kyle, who's feeling well, is about 100 percent."

It didn't seem to matter Sunday.

Up next – Game 2 is Wednesday night at 7 p.m.