20,562 fans wore a shirt with the words, “Whatever It Takes” Sunday afternoon in Quicken Loans Arena. After a stunning 18-point loss to the Indiana Pacers in Game 1, they are going to do have to whatever it takes to draw even in this series.
Right from the jump Indiana showed they were the better team. Victor Oladipo (11 points) nearly outscored the Cavaliers (14 points) by himself in the opening 12 minutes.
A key for the Cavaliers coming into the series was limiting their turnovers. They averaged 15.5 turnovers against the Pacers this season, but topped that number on Sunday. Cleveland had 17 turnovers for the game and 11 in the first quarter alone. Those 17 turnovers led to 20 points for the Pacers.
After shooting just 5-20 from the floor in the opening period, Cleveland bounced back to score 24 points in the second quarter on 10-21 (47.6%) shooting. LeBron also had a better quarter, scoring 12 points after only scoring 2 points in the first quarter.
Still the Cavaliers were only able to shave two points off of their 19-point first quarter deficit and went into the half down 17 points.
But as Cleveland has done several times this season, they made a charge in the second half. The Pacers lead swelled to 23 points before Cleveland came roaring back. A mixture of solid defense and shots finally falling trimmed the deficit to eight points entering the final quarter.
However, the cold shooting returned for the Cavaliers again in the 4th. Cleveland managed to shoot just 33.3% from the floor and only 1-8 (12.5 percent) from beyond the arc. Oladipo sealed the deal for Indiana as he scored 10 of him game-high 32 points in the 4th.
LeBron’s 20th playoff triple-double (24 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists) was all for naught as the Cavaliers managed to score just 80 points.
If was an eye-opening performance by the Cavaliers and the fans filed out of the ‘Q’ in stunned silence. It not time to panic just yet, but there is cause for concern. The slow start by the Cavaliers was not a good sign. In addition to that, their inability to slow Indiana down when their offense was in slow motion is why they were down 19 so early in the game.
One positive was the Cavaliers defense in the final three quarters. They limited the Pacers to just 65 points for the rest of the game after giving up 33 points in the first quarter. But as noted early the biggest issue was the offense for Cleveland.
Kevin Love, Rodney Hood, George Hill even LeBron all had looks they have knocked down all season. But unlike games past they could not convert their open looks. It is hard to envision Cleveland going 8-34 (23.5 percent) from 3-point range again in this series.
Also Jeff Green’s time in the starting lineup may have to come to an end. Green was 0-7 from the floor and was minus-15 in 26 minutes. All four starters not named LeBron managed just 25 points, while their bench scored 31 points.
A nice spark for the Cavaliers could be Jose Calderon seeing more playing time in Game 2. Calderon is a veteran point guard who brings grit and energy on both ends of the floor.
However, it is time to come to the realization that this Cavaliers team is not going to breeze through the East. It just is not going to happen with this team. It will take 6 or 7 games to get past Indiana, and while that might not sit well with some fans, it is the new reality facing the Cavaliers.
Cleveland still has the ultimate trump card in LeBron, but it is going to take a total team effort for the remainder of this series to advance against a fearless Indiana Pacers team.
But as we have seen all season, no matter what is thrown the Cavaliers way, they will fight through adversity and do whatever it takes to win.