The Cleveland Cavaliers barely got past the Indiana Pacers once again in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference first-round series, taking a commanding 2-0 lead in the matchup. We will see tonight in Game 3 if the Pacers have a response on their home floor (7pm ET Thursday on TNT).
Despite the two victories, Cleveland continues to look like a shell of its championship-winning self from last season. The Cavs’ defense is still poor and the offense is overly reliant on the Big Three of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. Indiana, a poor road team all year, lost the two games by a combined seven points.
The Pacers should feel much better about heading back home. They went 29-12 on their home floor during the regular season, which is quite strong compared to the Cavs’ 20-21 road record. Indiana should be looking for better performances from its role players to support Paul George.
Before we do battle with the USA betting companies and decide on this preview’s betting predictions and picks for this Game 3 clash, we will take a close look at some key points that will shape the outcome of this Thursday night NBA playoff game.
Can Anyone Outside of Cleveland’s Big Three Step Up?
Cleveland has to be satisfied with the way its star players stepped up in Game 2 at home. LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love combined for 89 points, 23 rebounds, 12 assists, five blocks and five steals on a 72.8 true-shooting percentage.
Unfortunately for the Cavs, the other seven players combined for just 28 points, 14 rebounds, seven assists, one steal and three blocks while accumulating a 56.0 true-shooting percentage
It is a well-known trend that role players perform much better at home than on the road, especially in the postseason. Guys like Tristan Thompson, J.R. Smith (if he is cleared to return from his hamstring injury) and Kyle Korver must buck that trend to grab a 3-0 lead.
How Ready is Myles Turner For the Bright Lights of the Playoffs?
Indiana would probably be leading the series 2-0 right now if Turner were playing to his regular-season standards. The sophomore center was one of the league’s most improved players in 2016-17 and is one of the most versatile centers in the NBA.
However, he has played miserably so far against Cleveland, despite the Cavs not really having a rotation guy to match Turner’s size (6’11” and 243 pounds). Averages of 8.5 points and 6.5 rebounds in 34.5 minutes per game on 36.4 percent shooting are not going to cut it.
Turner has such a nice game on both sides of the floor when he’s engaged. Can he flex some of his muscles on his home floor?
Can Nate McMillan Make Better Decisions at Home?
Let’s just say Game 2 wasn’t Pacers coach Nate McMillan’s finest hour. There were several times where he mismanaged timeouts and used poor game plans.
For example, Monta Ellis played 25 minutes despite being targeted on the defensive end and scoring just two points on 1-of-4 shooting. The Cavaliers guarded him very loosely and his man could basically roam about to provide help wherever it was needed.
Indiana also lost contact with Cleveland in a key third-quarter stretch where McMillan tabbed the 6’5” Lance Stephenson to cover the 6’10” Kevin Love. Love repeatedly made shots or got to the free-throw line on post-ups, helping extend the Cavaliers’ lead from eight points midway through the third to 16 at the end of the third.
Finally, McMillan didn’t utilize Jeff Teague (8-of-13 shooting) and Thaddeus Young (7-of-11 shooting) enough when both were having their way with Kyrie Irving and Love, respectively, who are both below-average stoppers.
Let’s see if McMillan finds ways to cover up his own teams’ shortcomings while magnifying Cleveland’s weak spots in Game 3.
Our Preview’s Cavs vs Pacers Game 3 Picks & Betting Predictions
Since the beginning of March, Cleveland is 5-10 on the road. In that same timeframe, Indiana is 8-2 at home. The Cavs are still the more talented team, but I feel those numbers should matter.
Oddsmakers are going to give the defending champions respect here, because they have the best player in the world and two great stars alongside him. But they have to start playing like the defending champs before I start respecting them as such.
- With the Cavaliers favored by 2.5 points. I recommend picking Indiana here to cover the spread, if not win the game, because this is a betting line that is very generous to Cleveland given its play over the last couple of months. Maybe the Cavs will turn on their defensive intensity for Game 3, but it’s been a while since they have. Bet on the Pacers + 2.5pts @ best odds of -108 with 5Dimes Sportsbook.
- Cleveland has just been so bad defensively as of late, allowing 112.5 points per game on the road since March started. Meanwhile, Indiana’s offense has been humming recently. With the over-under on the total points for this game at 211.5pts, my prediction is to pick the over and again the best odds, this time -107, are with 5Dimes.