Cleveland just barely did what it had to do, which was earn a split in Indianapolis.
The Cavaliers blew a big lead in Game 3 before winning yet another nail-biter in Game 4 to even the series at two games apiece. With the exception of Indiana’s double-digit victory in Game 1, every game of this series has been entertaining and intensely close.
So, above all, that’s why I like Indiana in Game 5; Vegas sees a decided winner and I do not.
Cleveland backers will be adamant that the Cavs have another gear. But LeBron James has been playing full throttle for three games now and the Cavs still haven’t been able to get separation from the Pacers. You can come up with all sorts of reasons why, but to me it’s as simple as Indiana being a worthy opponent.
The East feels pretty wide open and the Pacers look as good as any team left in the chase. If they win this game, they’ll find themselves in the driver’s seat in the series and may not stop there. It’s about so much more than just Victor Oladipo in Indy.
It always takes a while for the public to acknowledge an up-and-comer has surpasses established names, even after he has. Right now, that’s Myles Turner. You can put him right next to Joel Embiid with the best big men in the Eastern Conference, and even the entire NBA. He can shoot it, finish, put it on the floor, pass and protect the rim ferociously. Plus, he’s smart, durable and unselfish. He reminds me of Al Horford, if Al Horford had the game he has now, ten years ago. And there’s no question he is as good as Kevin Love.
The Indianapolis Star has done some great work reporting on Bojan Bogdanovic‘s defense on LeBron James. In short, it’s been stellar. And the Croatian swingman has been deadly himself from the outside. He, Oladipo and Turner have anchored Indiana but the Pacers go a legit nine deep and, so far, have been the more fearless team.
So it’s NBA basketball; teams get on crazy runs and can cover any sort of number, but it sure feels like there’s only one choice here. The Pacers have played the better basketball and seem to have a blueprint of how to play Cleveland.
The Cavs are fighting but I don’t think this is a situation where they can honestly tell themselves that they’ve just played badly or that Indiana has played over its head. The Pacers are right there with Cleveland and, in the playoffs, 6.5 is a big number. The play has to be with the Pacers.
Free Pick: Indiana +6.5