Kyrie Irving's offseason trade request having been granted, four-time league MVP LeBron James is probably going to need center Kevin Love to put up big numbers nearly every game this time around, beginning Sunday at 3:30 p.m. when fourth-seeded Cleveland (50-32) opens its postseason by hosting the Indiana Pacers (48-34) at Quicken Loans Arena.
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After a season that truly felt different, LeBron James is in uncharted territory.
LeBron James is 48-7 for his career in the first round of the NBA Playoffs entering Sunday's Game 1 vs. the Indiana Pacers. Of the Pacers top 10 contributors in minutes per game, only Cory Joseph and Lance Stephenson have played all 82 games.
Game 2 of the Cavs-Pacers series is set for Wednesday night.
The Cavaliers never led, but battled hard in the second-half before coming up well short. The Cavs still feature the best player on the floor in the series, but they don't feature the same type of team that the Pacers do. For Kevin Love and the Cleveland Cavaliers organization, it would be the fourth-straight.More news: Zinedine Zidane sick of Real Madrid 'robbery' jibes after Juventus game
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The Cavaliers continued their push in the early stages of the final period, with James' layup with 10:29 to go in the game making it a seven-point contest at 76-69. That paired with the Pacers 14-point run put Cleveland in a double-digit deficit.
Cleveland swept Toronto in last year's playoffs, and they defeated the Raptors in two games toward the end of this season. This has immediately drawn the attention toward how James will respond to being in this situation for the first time. They know that the regular season is an exercise in patience and the postseason is when they need to really commit to winning basketball games. The Cavs are the fourth seed and the Pacers are the fifth seed. The teams split two previous playoff series with the Cavaliers holding a 5-4 edge in game victories. "It's well-documented we only have four guys left from that (2016) championship team (James, Love, Tristan Thompson and J.R. Smith), but we have a lot of veteran, savvy guys with a ton of experience". Despite the changes, IN may be better than past year, finishing at 48-34 instead of the 42-40 they had with Paul George at the helm.
It's a fairly safe bet that Game 2 won't be as ugly offensively as the opener was for Cleveland.
The Cavaliers [VIDEO] embark on this latest journey in the postseason as the No. 4 seed overall but still are considered a favorite to win this series and the Eastern Conference.
Personally I find it a bit ironic that the Pacers have to go through LeBron one more time. The total will improve from Game 1 but it still falls a little short of the number as there's a big jump to be made here.