The Cleveland Cavaliers have a chance to come one victory away from reaching the second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs Thursday night. They visit the Indiana Pacers in Game 3 of their first-round series with a 2-0 lead.
Game 3 is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. EDT at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. TNT will have the TV coverage, and fans can watch a free live stream online with tntdrama.com.
If Game 3 is similar to the first two games of the series, the Pacers can steal a game against the heavily favored Cavs. Indiana lost Game 1 by a single point, and they had a chance to win with a shot in the final seconds. Cleveland was in control for much of Game 2, though a fourth-quarter comeback by Indiana made things close in the final two minutes.
The Pacers are just 2.5-point underdogs at home, via OddsShark, after two close calls on the road. The game’s over/under is 211.5.
If the No.7 seed is able to win Game 3, it’s going to be because of Paul George. The All-Star forward has taken it as a personal challenge to match LeBron James this series, and he’s done as good of a job as Indiana could have hoped. George is averaging 30.5 points, seven assists and 6.5 rebounds per game, making big shots to give the Pacers a chance to come back from late deficits.
The problem is that James has been just that much better. For all the concern about James’ age and increased minutes, the forward hasn’t been affected by any of it.
James is averaging 28.5 points, 10 assists, eight rebounds, 3.5 steals and two blocks in the two games in Cleveland. He remains the best basketball player in the world, and Indiana simply doesn’t have an answer for him.
The Cavs will lose a series if James doesn’t get any help, but Kyrie Irving seems to be in playoff form, scoring 37 points on 14-of-24 shooting in Game 2. Kevin Love is averaging 22 points on just eight field goal attempts per game.
Cleveland’s defense is still a concern, and it could come back to bite them later on in the playoffs. Against the Pacers, though, it shouldn’t be much of a problem. Indiana is the very definition of an average team, finishing 15th in both offensive and defensive efficiency.
During James’ six straight years of reaching the NBA Finals, he’s suffered just two total losses in the first round. He’s undefeated in his teams’ opening series since 2013, and it doesn’t make much sense to pick against the Cavs until they suffer their first loss.
Prediction: Cleveland over Indiana, 104-98