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Cavaliers vs. Pacers final score: LeBron James, Cleveland survive in 109-108 Game 1 win

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Indiana pushed Cleveland to a final shot, but then fell short.

NBA: Playoffs-Indiana Pacers at Cleveland Cavaliers David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Despite LeBron James running roughshod over the poor Indiana Pacers defense on Saturday, the Cleveland Cavaliers only barely survived Game 1 against the Indiana Pacers. C.J. Miles missed a jumper as time expired that could have beat Cleveland, but instead, the Cavaliers squeaked out a victory in the postseason opener.

For parts of the game, Indiana ended up with Jeff Teague attempting to guard James without much help. The Pacers’ defensive plan was to aggressively stay home on Cleveland’s shooters, but using consistent single coverage against the best player in the world turned out not to be a winning strategy in this case.

The game was close for much of the first half, but the Cavaliers had built a seven-point lead by halftime. By the end of the third, it was a eight-point lead, but a scoring burst from Lance Stephenson and the Cavaliers’ offense lagging briefly allowed Indiana to get within one point.

It looked like the Cavaliers would be fine after that. James was fouled, and he would finish with a line of 32 points and 13 assists on 12-of-20 shooting, while Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love added 40 points combined. But James missed a potential dagger three, and it set up this Paul George look to pull within one.

However, Miles’ final look at a game winner — after the Cavaliers doubled Paul George to get it out of his hands — didn’t go, and Cleveland moves on.

Cleveland won the game with offense, not their lousy defense

The Cavaliers struggled heavily in stretches during the second half of the season, and their problems were directly related to bad defense. Last season, Cleveland’s defense was No. 10 in the league, and it obviously was good enough for them to win the NBA finals even after falling down 3-1. We know their defense with this personnel has been good in the past, but whether it can get back to championship level, we aren’t sure. On Saturday, it certainly wasn’t.

Lance Stephenson only plays well for the Pacers

Cleveland nearly pulled away in the second half, taking an eight point lead into the fourth quarter, but Stephenson wouldn’t let it happen. He ended up with 16 points on 8-of-13 shooting, including some classic Lance shots. Since joining the team late in the season, it feels like Stephenson has returned so quickly to being a decent basketball player, something he wasn’t able to accomplish anywhere outside of Indiana. Who knows what it is, but it happens.

Paul George vs. LeBron James is very good

I have nothing more to add, except that I am very eager to watch three more games like this — even if Cleveland wins them all, which seems likely.


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