NBA Playoffs First Round Indiana Pacers vs. Cleveland Cavaliers:Preview and Prediction

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Better protect those chins, Pacers. The Cavaliers are the No. 4 seed and the Pacers No. 5, with Game 1 scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Sunday in Cleveland. "This is a totally new team and we are a new team".

James hasn't lost a single game in the first round for six years and is a flawless 12-0 since returning to Cleveland in 2014. Would he dump his hometown team and head to Los Angeles after an early playoff exit?

Pacers: Indiana has been eliminated by James four times in the past eight seasons.

After three seasons in Orlando and a year ago in OKC, the former second overall pick in 2013-14 averaged season highs nearly entirely across the board and finished as the only player in the league who averaged more than 20.0 points, 5.0 boards, 4.0 assists and 2.0 steals per game.

"It's going to be a very good matchup", James said after practice April 14 in Independence.

A first-round exit for LeBron would ultimately be a major surprise, but this nonetheless stacks up as what should be a competitive series. But we went through a lot in the offseason as well. IN was on roll through April 1, but did lose three of its final five games heading into the postseason. It's when James shines most. The 33-year-old is trying to get to his eighth straight Finals, and already the path is tougher than imagined.

It's no secret the Cavaliers have been a defensive abomination for most of the season. At least the Pacers get to play with the same mentality they have played with all year. "You could give it (the MVP award) to him every year, but it wouldn't be fair to everyone else".

The Cleveland Cavaliers have their eye on the championship prize, but star forward Kevin Love recognizes that the reward for winning the 2018 NBA Finals could be two-fold.

The only player in the National Basketball Association this year to average at least 9.0 rebounds and can at least 125 triples, Love notched a double-double in three of the meetings against in this year and finished with 20 points in the game that he didn't.

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Since February 20, there have been 30 lineups to play more than 10 minutes for the Cavaliers.

It was clean and Stephenson went on to be dynamite off the bench all game, a trend that must continue for the Pacers to hand LeBron his first ever first round loss. I think that's pretty cool, and it's odd at the same time. "So we'll see what happens".

"My responsibility has been the same for quite a while now: Go out and try to dominate".

For the first time in four years, James won't have Kyrie Irving by his side in the playoffs.

Cleveland's biggest and most important piece, however, raises none of those concerns. His energy has driven this Pacers team all season long, keeping them engaged on defense, and fueling their transition attack.

IN jumped out to a huge lead to begin the game, and eventually pushed their lead as high as 23 points. He's grateful for a fresh start. They have more youth, more depth, and oh yeah, they have LeBron James. I feel where I need to be and I'm healthy going into the postseason - as healthy as you can be going into the postseason.

Even in a losing effort, James was spectacular as always, recording a triple-double with 24 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds. He's still doing it.

If Curry is back for what is an expected showdown series with the Rockets in the conference finals, they'll be the best in the West yet again.

"I think having LeBron James, that's one factor and Kevin Love, I think those two guys", Lue said.