CLEVELAND -- LeBron James knows very well what the Indiana Pacers are capable of in the postseason, having seen them several times before, most recently during his four-year run through the Eastern Conference with the Miami Heat.
But this year’s Pacers, whom the Cavaliers lead, 2-0, in the best-of-seven first-round series that shifts to Banker’s Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis Thursday night, are much different than the ones James battled previously.
“They were more of a ground-and-pound team when I was in Miami, and they wanted to do that because we played small ball,” James said. “With myself and C.B. (Chris Bosh) and Shane (Battier), we pretty much were the interior. Obviously, with U.D. (Udonis Haslem) as well, we were the interior, and they had some pretty big bodies.”
Cleveland Cavaliers take on Indiana Pacers in Game 2 of opening round of 2017 NBA Playoffs
James has seen the Pacers transform from a half-court, grind-it-out type of squad to a team that is capable of playing at a quicker pace in transition. Indiana proved that fact when it erased a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit and pushed Cleveland to the brink before the Cavaliers closed out the 109-108 win.
“At the time, Roy Hibbert was an All-Star. David West was playing great ball. (Ian) Mahinmi was there too, so they tried to pound us on the interior, but we figured that out,” James said. “We figured that out, and right now, even with some of the bigs that they have that are very good and very mobile, they kind of play more of a perimeter-oriented game and rightfully so.
“They’ve got Teague, P.G. (Paul George), and Monta (Ellis) and C.J. (Miles). Now, Lance (Stephenson) is on the team and Aaron Brooks. They’ve got guys that can make things happen on the perimeter, so they changed their format a lot.”
When the Heat, and now, the Cavaliers utilize a small-ball lineup, James moves from his traditional position of small forward to more of a “point forward,” and sometimes, center. And despite the position switch, James does what is necessary to win, just as he did in Game 1.
James led the way for the Cavaliers with 32 points and 13 assists to go along with six rebounds in Game 2. James knocked down 12 of his 20 shots from the field, including two of his three looks from three-point range.
Then, in Game 2, James tallied 25 points and corralled 10 rebounds to go along with seven assists.
“Nothing changes for me, not in the postseason,” James said. “I am who I am in the postseason. I am who I am all year, but I’ll get even more locked in throughout the postseason. I understand the magnitude of the games, so nothing changes for me.
“I’ve got to be the leader of this team every night I step on the floor. I’ve got to command these guys and put them in the right positions to be successful, and then, I’ve got to do it on both ends. If I do that, we’ve got a good chance.”