Cavs hold on, Irving scores 37

Is JR Smith's hamstring injury worrisome?

Is JR Smith's hamstring injury worrisome?

The Indiana Pacers are broken, and Larry Bird has ruined them.

The Cavs are in complete control of their Eastern Conference first-round series against the Indiana Pacers after a 117-111 win. Last year, Cleveland was 10th.

Lance Stephenson added 13 points, but did not have the same poise and was a little erratic. It also was Fizdale's first postseason victory as a head coach. Paul George lead the Pacers with 36 points.

In part because of the freak injury, IN went from Eastern Conference powerhouse to mediocre IN sixth months' time.

But Bird had already weakened the team's core before George's injury when he played hardball with Lance Stephenson (fresh off a mostly excellent playoff run) and lost, watching the budding player leave via free agency to the Hornets for three years and $27million. That being said, $9 million a season for a young, core piece (one who hung tough with LeBron) on a contender was, at worst, the going rate and and, at best, a bargain.

"I'm not going to let them treat us that way".

Bird, to his credit, recognized the need to break up the offensive core.

General Manager David Griffin says the Cavs play best with their backs to the wall. But the night belonged to point guard Kyrie Irving, who drilled 37 points on 14-for-24 shooting including 4-of-10 from 3-point range.

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However, the Cavs are not a good defensive team. They finished 16 of 28 (57.1 percent). "That's what hurt our defense was our offense tonight". Bird had assembled a team of inefficient scorers who needed the ball in their hands.

LeBron James in the second quarter on April 20 passed Kobe Bryant for third place in the NBA's all-time playoff scoring list.

Win one more at IN, the four-time MVP will be crowned king of the first round.

Paul George and Jeff Teague took advantage and combined to score 18 points in the opening quarter, though the All-Star forward was the one putting on a show with highlight-reel dunks in the first half. I thought that was huge. And Monday night was no different, as both of Cleveland's stars took the floor again in colorways that sneakerheads can only dream of owning.

IN may be in too deep to make a comeback against LeBron, but how the team responds to this situation has big implications for the team even if the Pacers are facing certain elimination.

There is a blame to go around, but it hard not to focus on coaching after this one. Irving's newest Kyrie 3 featured a team colorway of a mostly gold upper accented with wine and finished off with a camo toe. Vogel would not have allowed this to happen. We have to do a good job of taking good shots and taking care of the basketball.

In a vacuum, some of Bird's decisions make sense (and the Hibbert trade was the right move regardless), but this also shows Bird's weakness. Conversely, fans and media members are still looking for them to flip the switch and, personally, I don't think they're going to do that until they lose their first postseason game. You have to wonder if that would still be the case were Vogel and Hill still in the spots now occupied by McMillan and Teague.

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