CLEVELAND--Welcome to the return of "LeBron James Says" as the 2018 NBA Playoffs are now underway. Unfortunately for the Cleveland Cavaliers and Mr. James, things did not go well in Sunday's Game 1 matchup against the Indiana Pacers at Quicken Loans Arena. The Pacers went wire-to-wire in outplaying the Cavs, 98-80.
Now for some history: For the first time since 2012, a James-led team lost a first round playoff game. The last time it happened was when LeBron was in Miami and his Heat lost Game 4 to the New York Knicks. Since then, James' teams have won 21 straight first round games, including sweeps in 2013-14 with Miami and 2015-17 here with the Cavaliers. Today's loss also marks the first time that a James-led team has ever lost Game 1 of a first round series or trailed in the first round of a playoff series.
So what the heck happened out there?
First things first, give credit to the No. 5 seed Pacers. They came out hungry and focused, led by Victor Oladipo, who scored 32 points and delivered a dynamite drop-in on Cavs owner Dan Gilbert after Indiana's win.
Rewind back to last summer for a moment. Remember when the Cavs were trying to acquire Paul George from the Pacers? Indiana turned down a reported three-team deal with the Cavaliers and Nuggets involving Kevin Love and ended up getting Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.
Gilbert's reaction? "I will say Indiana could have done better than they did."
Oladipo was first asked if he had heard of the remarks that Gilbert made. His answer was short and sweet: "I'm aware of it."
Tom Withers of the Associated Press asked the Indiana All-Star to elaborate:
Look, no one is suggesting that Gilbert is to blame for the loss or anything like that. Oladipo has been sensational in his first year in Indy. However, I'm guessing this will continue to be a storyline as the series progresses.
Meanwhiile, the Cavaliers offense was absolutely miserable throughout the afternoon. They shot 38.5% as a team, including a putrid 8-34 from beyond the three-point line. They also committed 16 turnovers and played careless all afternoon. LeBron did manage a triple-double with 24 points, 12 assists, and 10 rebounds, but received very little help from his teammates. J.R. Smith had 15 points off the bench, while Larry Nance Jr. added 10. That was it.
Kevin Love was a virtual non-factor, scoring just 9 points. Jeff Green went scoreless.
That guy Lance
Our Ben Axelrod wrote about the moment that went viral this afternoon between LeBron and Lance Stevenson, whose on-court antics can drive your nuts.
LBJ's reaction to Stevenson here was priceless.
Afterwards, LeBron was asked about playing against his old rival once again:
Time to grow up
I was curious to see how the Cavalier players who were getting their first taste of playoff action, like Nance, Rodney Hood, and Jordan Clarkson, would react to the pressure of the postseason. I thought Nance was very solid, but the other two combined for just 15 points and at times, seemed tentative.
James had a good read on what he saw from the youngsters. "Everybody is going to be a lot more calm and precise with what we want to do going into Game 2."
I hope LeBron is right on this, because without some help, he will have to start scoring 35-40 points a game in order for the Cavaliers to survive.
So what's next?
The Cavaliers and Pacers will next square off on Wednesday for Game 2 of the first round at the Q. That's a lot of time to evaluate what adjustments need to be made. For example, LeBron spoke about playing down in the post more coming up after having to help fill the void at the point in the second half when George Hill was hurt.
For those who will come up to James and ask him if he's panicking about the Cavs being down 0-1 or anything like that, my advice would be don't bother.
The LeBron James Says (Non) Dunk of the Game
In honor of James passing Michael Jordan for second place on the NBA's all time list for most field goals made in the postseason, we bring you this highlight which put him only behind "The Captain," Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for another career milestone:
Talk to you from the Q on Wednesday when hopefully we'll have a better result to report!