Here are three things the Cavs showed in their quick four-game sweep of the Pacers.
As expected, the Cleveland Cavaliers made very short work of their first-round series against the Indiana Pacers, dispatching them in just four games. But after such a short series, what information did we actually pick up regarding the Cavs and their prospects for the postseason going forward?
LeBron James is the King of the first round
LeBron James’ place in the pantheon of all-time greats is all but secured at this point. But in this playoff series against the Pacers, James may have just solidified his status as the greatest performer in the first round of the playoffs.
The numbers are just astonishing. With his sweep of the Pacers, James has now won 21 consecutive first-round playoff games, which is the longest such win streak since the expanded playoff format in 1984. He’s 48-7 overall in the first round, and a perfect 12-0 in first-round series – with five straight sweeps.
James averaged 33 points, 9.8 rebounds, nine assists, three steals, two blocks, and 44 minutes in the series, which are astounding numbers (of course, he did average 29.7 points, 11.3 rebounds, 8.9 assists, 2.6 steals and 2.3 blocks in the seven-game NBA finals last season, which is pretty good too).
LeBron James’ aversion to losing first-round games was perfectly encapsulated by his virtuoso performance in Game 3. Most other players would’ve simply taken the loss and lived to play another day. But not James, who doesn’t take any losses the first round. So he just made history by leading the Cavs from 26 points down to get the win. No big deal for the king of the first round.
The Cavs still haven’t “flipped the switch”
However, it is a bit concerning that despite LeBron James' uncanny performances, the Cavs also made a dubious bit of history by matching the smallest total margin of victory for a four-game sweep at 16 points.
A big factor in that very small number is the fact that the Cavs have given up a very big number in terms of their defensive efficiency. They allowed the Pacers’ mediocre offense to score 111 points per 100 possessions. That is basically the exact number they gave up post-All-Star break when they were the second-worst defense in the league – only ahead of the Lakers.
Another late-season trend of theirs – giving up fourth-quarter leads – also continued in the first round. You may remember the last games that James and Kyrie Irving played in the regular season as being the back-to-back late-game meltdowns they suffered against the Atlanta Hawks. The Pacers outscored the Cavs in three of the four fourth quarters in the series, as the Cavs averaged just under 19 points in those three periods.
Whatever switch people expected to flip for the Cavs in the playoffs hasn’t yet.
The reserves can give good minutes
On the bright side for the Cavs, their bench unit played well against the Pacers. Deron Williams, in particular, was terrific in the series. His raw numbers (8.3 points, 0.8 rebounds, 1.5 assists) weren’t eye-catching, but he shot an incredible 77 percent from the field and did not commit a single turnover in 62 total minutes of action over four games. Now those are impressive numbers.
Another impressive number, Williams finished with a 19.1 net rating in the series, nearly ten full points per 100 possessions better than James’ and 23 points better than Irving's -3.9. That was certainly the type of impact that the Cavs were hoping from the veteran when they signed him up to fill their backup point guard vacancy.
Channing Frye and Kyle Korver weren’t quite as outstanding, but they knocked down some shots and were key parts of the Cavs’ most potent offensive lineups because of all the attention they got. Meanwhile, Iman Shumpert played some very solid defense for stretches.