Following a playoff beat down that LeBron James is not accustomed to, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Indiana Pacers are headed toward a decisive Game 7 (Sunday, 1 PM ET) of their first round Eastern Conference series today.
The game was close in the first quarter, with the Pacers only leading by three but the floodgates began to open short after. Indiana outscored the Cavaliers in every quarter, increasing their three point lead to 10 at the half, 25 after the third, and finally 34 by the time the final buzzer rang.
It was a completely one-sided performance and one that the Pacers absolutely needed. Not only did it keep the Pacers alive, but it also showed Indiana that they could finally be the team to end Cleveland’s dominance over the East.
Read on for full analysis of this Pacers vs Cavs Game 7 with predictions and our preview’s betting picks.
Getting to Game 7
Cleveland finished the regular season in a position they weren’t expecting as a late season loss to the Philadelphia 76ers all but sealed their fate. Philadelphia, who advanced out of the first round with a gentlemen’s sweep of the Miami Heat, earned the three-seed, forcing Cleveland into the fourth. That is a position the team hadn’t been in a decade. In fact, in LeBron James’ career, he only finished outside of the top two seeds, twice, both times getting the fourth seed, in 2008 and 2006.
The Pacers finished just behind Cleveland, taking the fifth seed and ensuring a repeat of last year’s Eastern Conference first round. That time, Indiana was swept cleanly by the Cavaliers, who went on to reach the NBA Finals. Prior to the start of this postseason, the Pacers promised it wouldn’t happen again, and so far, they have lived up to their word.
- Game One: Indiana came out of the gate strong, winning the first game by 18 points in front of a shocked Cavalier home court. Victor Oladipo led all scorers with 32 points in 37 minutes and was joined by three teammates scoring in double figures. Overall, the Pacers shot nearly 46 percent from the floor, and nearly 40 percent from three point range. James had a triple double, but the rest of his teammates couldn’t keep up as only one player off the bench scored over 10 points. It was James’ first ever loss of the first game in the first round in his career.
- Game Two: Cleveland struck back in Game 2, but just barely. James led all scorers with 46 and was the top rebounder of the game as well with 12. The team firmly on his back, James almost single-handedly helped the team avoid an 0-2 start. Indiana, who shot nearly 53 percent from the floor, had a chance to extend the game with a buzzer beater but it wasn’t to be.
- Game Three: In Game 3, it was Indiana’s turn to win in a close encounter, the final score being 92-90. However, the game wasn’t always close as the Pacers had to erase a 17-point deficit in order to escape with the victory. James scored 28 and Kevin Love had 19 but the Cavaliers weren’t able to stop the comeback, which occurred in large part because of Bojan Bogdanovic, who was 11-of-15 from the floor and 7-of-9 from three point range.
- Games Four and Five: Going down 2-1 must have struck a chord with the Cavaliers and James as the team rattled off two straight wins to take a 3-2 series lead and regain home field advantage. Across the two games, James combined for 76 points and Kyle Korver for 37. The Pacers had an incredible seven players in double figures for Game 4, including all of their starters, allowing the team to keep it close. Game 5 was also close as it was a last minute shot by James, who scored 44, that ultimately gave the Cavaliers the win and their first series lead. Cleveland won games four and five by just a combined seven points.
- Game Six: With their backs against the wall and the series back in Indianapolis, the Pacers absolutely blew out the Cavaliers by 34 points to force James’ first ever Game 7 in a first round playoff series. Indiana was in effect, as good as they could have been. The team shot over 56 percent from the floor and 50 percent from three. Oladipo scored 28 points and had his first playoff triple double, seven players scored in double figures, four of whom had plus/minuses of at least +20. The team led after every quarter and dominated Cleveland, breaking James’ 11-0 record in closeout games.
What to Expect in Game 7
The series returns to Cleveland and despite the woeful performance of the Cavaliers in Game 6, that’s a reason for hope they can hold onto. Game 7s have historically been very good to the home team and James himself, is pretty good in these situations as well. Even if he has never faced one in this particular round.
James is 4-2 in his career in Game 7s, including a memorable win to help the Cavaliers to their first title, when the team came back to defeat perennial NBA Champion, the Golden State Warriors, a few years ago. James averages over 33 points per game and over nine rebounds in his Game 7 career. So home field advantage aside, the Pacers have to deal with the LeBron James advantage, which is very real. James can turn it on and the Cavaliers have benefited this series when he has scored en masse. If James has another 30+ points, it is hard to see that not being enough, especially in the friendly confines of Cleveland, a city that does not want to see their championship hopes come to an end anytime soon.
For Indiana, they are certainly riding an emotional high after Game 6. Not to mention, they have beaten the Cavaliers three times this series. Before this series, since 2015, Cleveland had only lost five games against the Eastern Conference in three years. In this series, they have already lost three. The Pacers have done that and it has not been by accident. Indiana has shown the matchup capability to challenge James, even at his best. Plus, they have got Oladipo going and if he can repeat his Game 6 performance, the Pacers could pull off the upset and finally take down their biggest playoff foe (Indiana has lost four of its last six playoff appearances to a James-led team).
Our Preview’s Indiana Pacers at Cleveland Cavaliers Game 7 Picks & Betting Predictions
The Cavaliers are home favorites, around -5.5pts with the top rated betting sites. That is a somewhat generous spread for a team that hasn’t won a single game this series by more than four points. That being said, this is an elimination game and this is potentially James’ last game as a Cavalier. The Pacers have shown the ability to beat the league’s best player but they haven’t been in this position before.
- This preview’s prediction is that James will take over the game and the Cavaliers will find a way to advance into the next round. The pick is to bet on the Cavs -5.5pts @ current best odds of -105 with Bookmaker. It is -110 for the same spread with 5Dimes, Bovada or Intertops.
- As for the pick on the total points that will be scored in this NBA playoff Game 7, look for the over at generally 199 points, especially if this becomes the high scoring affair it will need to be for the Cavaliers to get the win. While all other sportsbooks are at 199pts for -110 either direction, once again Bookmaker has just the best option at the moment which is to bet over 198.5pts @ -110.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.