Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 10:04 AM

Game 7 - Pacers at Cavaliers

For the first time in LeBron James’ career, he is facing elimination in the opening round of the playoffs.

The Cavaliers return home on Sunday after getting wiped out by the Pacers on Friday night, 121-87 as Indiana evened up its best-of-seven series at 3-3. As the top-seeded Raptors wait in the wings after eliminating the Wizards in six games, Cleveland looks for another chance to knock out Toronto for the third consecutive postseason. But, they have to get past the Pacers first.

The Pacers built a 10-point advantage in Game 6, then extended the lead to 25 after three quarters at 92-67. Indiana scorched Cleveland from the floor by hitting 56% of its shots, including Victor Oladipo busting out of his shooting slump by scoring 28 points. Oladipo produced a triple-double by pulling down 13 rebounds and dishing out 10 assists, while hitting 11-of-19 shots from the floor, including 6-of-8 from three-point range. The former Indiana Hoosier rebounded after converting 12 of his previous 50 attempts from Games 3 through 5.

Seven Pacers netted double-figures in Game 6, compared to only three Cavaliers on Friday. James did his thing by posting 22 points, but Kevin Love and J.R. Smith combined to score 16 points on 6-of-19 shooting, as no other Cleveland starter besides James put up double-figures. Indiana didn’t score more than 100 points in any of the first five games of the series prior to Friday’s outburst, while Cleveland was limited to below 100 points for the fifth time in the series.

Cleveland opened as a 5 ½-point favorite for Game 7 at [...] and the number went to -6 quickly, which is what most betting shops are holding as of Saturday.

Chris David of believed Indiana would pull off this first round upset prior to the series and while he understands the LeBron factor and the inflated odds, he’s buying the Pacers again on Sunday.

He explained his position, “I believed Indiana was the better overall team coming into this series and the club has proven that in the first six games. The Pacers have the edge in every statistical category, except free throws. It’s never been more apparent that the Cavaliers are a one-man show and unless LeBron is the highest scorer in the game, they don’t stand a chance to beat Indiana especially if the Pacers offense shows up. We’ve seen that happen in two games and that’s resulted in double-digit wins for Indiana. In the three defeats when the shots weren’t falling and LeBron was dominating, the Pacers still only lost those games by a combined 10 points.” David also believes that bettors should ignore history with LeBron-led teams and focus on who’s suiting up on Sunday for Cleveland.

“In LeBron’s career, he owns a 4-2 record in Game 7’s and that includes a 3-0 mark during his four-year stint with the Miami Heat. The other win came against Golden State in the 2016 NBA Finals when he had All-Star Kyrie Irving on the roster. With all due respect to Love, the Cavs don’t have any other All-Stars outside of LeBron and those two are the only players averaging double figures in this series while Indiana has six guys putting up 10-plus points. The two losses for LeBron in Game 7’s came in his early years with Cleveland and some pundits believe this year’s supporting cast is worse than those squads. I definitely agree with that statement and while I certainly wouldn’t be surprised to see another heroic effort from LeBron on Sunday, the Indiana money-line would still be my lean (+225) in Game 7.”

NBA handicapper Tony Mejia says the Cavaliers will need all the help they can get in Game 7, “Besides James’ gaudy production, only Love is averaging double-figures in points per game this postseason (11.0), but shooting less than 33 percent. The best thing that came out of the Game 6 blowout for Cleveland is that Rodney Hood and Jordan Clarkson got some time out there, because both must show up here in addition to Kyle Korver and Smith to keep the Pacers honest since they’ve managed not to double-team James but are using zoning principles to put multiple bodies in his area due to the Cavs’ lack of offensive proficiency.”

The UNDER cashed in each of the first five games of this series prior to the OVER hitting in Game 6. The total closed at 201 ½ for Game 6, but dropped over two points for Sunday’s Game 7 at 199 at most books.

Heading into Friday's Game 6, the Cavaliers put together a perfect 10-0 record in postseason close-out games since James returned to Cleveland in 2014. That undefeated mark is done, but James-led teams are 20-3 in the past 23 playoff contests with a chance to advance since 2012. All three losses came to the Pacers (on the road), as the last time James lost a home close-out game in the playoffs came in Game 5 of the 2008 opening round against Washington, 88-87.

Cleveland has not been to a Game 7 against an Eastern Conference opponent since the 2008 second round as the Cavaliers lost to the Celtics. Indiana fell short in its last Game 7 appearance, an 89-84 setback at Toronto in the 2016 opening round, but the Pacers cashed as six-point underdogs.

The last time the Cavaliers lost in the first round of the playoffs coincidentally came against the Pacers in 1998. The Pacers are looking to advance to the conference semifinals for the first time since 2014, as Indiana needed seven games to knock out Atlanta.

Looking ahead to the second round, the Raptors dropped two of three regular season meetings with the Cavaliers, while the Pacers lost three of four matchups with Toronto.

You can reach Kevin Rogers via e-mail at [email protected]

Kevin Rogers can be followed on Twitter at virogers.

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