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LeBron James collected 44 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and dished eight assists- along with a game-saving block on Victor Oladipo the possession before his game-winner – to bring his first-round series averages to 34.8 points, 11.4 rebounds and eight assists per game.
Despite LeBron’s major contributions, the Pacers have looked like the better team for a good part of the series. If not for a missed goaltending call on Oladipo’s Game 5 drive, and a miraculous shot from maybe the best player on the planet, the Pacers could be winning this series.
Instead, the Cleveland Cavaliers hold a 3-2 series lead and will have an opportunity to advance to the Eastern Conference Semifinals in Game 6.
Last season’s playoff results: Cavaliers were eliminated by the Golden State Warriors in NBA Finals; Pacers were swept by the Cavaliers in the first round
Injury report: Kevin Love jammed his thumb late in Game 2, but coach Tyronn Lue says he’s fine.
Cavaliers’ starting lineup: G George Hill; G Kyle Korver; F J.R. Smith; F LeBron James; C Kevin Love
Pacers’ starting lineup: G Darren Collison; G Victor Oladipo; F Bojan Bogdanovic; F Thaddeus Young; C Myles Turner
Cavaliers win if …
The Cavaliers win if they flip the switch. They’ve been an up-and-down team all season, but they finished the season with flashes of who they want to be come postseason time. Larry Nance Jr. gives them a lot of versatility off the bench and is a game-changer for them. However, none of this matters if they can’t flip the switch and look like the team everybody expects them to be. That will depend on LeBron James.
Pacers win if …
The Pacers can win this series if the Cleveland’s defense doesn’t improve in the playoffs. The Cavs have been one of the NBA’s worst defensive teams this season and ranks 29th in defensive efficiency. The Pacers have a fast-paced offense that can exploit the Cavs in a hurry. They’re an average defensive team, though, so they’ll need to outscore the Cavs to have a chance.