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Cavaliers vs. Pacers, NBA playoffs 2017: Schedule, predictions, and news

Cleveland sweeps Indiana to advance to second round.

NBA: Playoffs-Indiana Pacers at Cleveland Cavaliers Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The playoffs are finally here. Thank god.

Click?

Whether the Cleveland Cavaliers can flick the switch on and click into place now that games matter and the postseason has emerged is a huge question for everyone. If they have, then expect to see them back in the Finals (almost certainly in a Golden State rematch). If not ...

It’s been a strange year for the Cavaliers, who at times looked checked out and in other instances looked like they were trying to hide the fact that they were checked out. They still finished 51-31, but they lost the No. 1 seed in the season’s waning moments after a resounding victory against Boston with just a few games to go should have clinched it. And while LeBron James deserves all the talk about the MVP race that he has received, not a single one of his teammates had a great year front to back.

James is up against a familiar foe, although they look dramatically different. The Indiana Pacers are very familiar with the James-led Miami Heat teams from earlier this decade, and they’ve never been able to beat him. Until a few weeks ago, the only key player that remained for the Pacers was Paul George, their superstar who closed the season with vigor. However, a recent reunion with Lance Stephenson brings more of the old crew back for a nostalgic rematch.

Of course, beating James wasn’t doable when they were the No. 1 seed. It won’t magically become more likely with them barely squeaking into the No. 7 seed on the final day of the season. Despite all the disparaging things I said about Cleveland right above, we all know how deadly they can be at their best. They’re the reigning champs! They have the best player in the world! Those two things together are pretty damning.

Cleveland likely won’t be tested too terribly hard in this series. But whether they beat Indiana quickly or struggle a bit might indicate whether they really do have the switch.

KEY MATCHUP: Myles Turner vs. Tristan Thompson

Indiana’s secret weapon is Turner. He’s a ceiling-less big man who is Indiana’s future as much as George is at this point, and while he’s still very young and inconsistent, he could absolutely dominate Cleveland for a series. With Andrew Bogut immediately falling to injury and Larry Sanders not really working out, the Cavaliers’ clear weakness is the center position.

Tristan Thompson is a good player, but he’s a little bit undersized and had some bad stretches this year. Indiana needs Turner to cook him for the whole series — especially on the offensive glass, since the Cavaliers will definitely score more efficiently — if they want to have a chance.

FULL SCHEDULE (All time ET)

Game 1: Cavaliers 109, Pacers 108 (recap)
Game 2: Cavaliers 117, Pacers 111 (recap)
Game 3: Cavaliers 119, Pacers 114 (recap)
Game 4: Cavaliers 106, Pacers 102 (recap)

PREDICTIONS

SB Nation’s Cavaliers vs. Pacers predictions

STAFFER WINNING TEAM GAMES SERIES MVP
STAFFER WINNING TEAM GAMES SERIES MVP
Paul Flannery Cavaliers 5 LeBron James
Mike Prada Cavaliers 6 Paul George
Tom Ziller Cavaliers 7 LeBron James
Whitney Medworth Cavaliers 6 LeBron James
Kristian Winfield Cavaliers 5 Kyrie Irving
Tim Cato Cavaliers 6 Kyrie Irving
Zito Madu Cavaliers 6 Kyrie Irving
Fear the Sword Cavaliers 5 LeBron James
Indy Cornrows Cavaliers 6 LeBron James