While the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Indiana Pacers will meet in the first round of the NBA playoffs for the second consecutive season, starting Sunday at Quicken Loans Arena, there isn’t much postseason history between the two franchises.
In fact, prior to last season’s first-round clash, which resulted in the Cavaliers sweeping the Pacers 4-0, the only other playoff matchup came 20 years ago this month.
In April 1998, Cleveland and Indiana met in a first-round, best-of-five series. In four games in a seven-day span, the Pacers eliminated the Cavaliers, winning the series, 3-1.
CAVS: A TEAM ON RISE
Under the direction of coach Mike Fratello, the Cavaliers finished the regular season at 47-35, fifth in the Central Division and sixth in the Eastern Conference.
Leading up to that season, Cleveland acquired All-Star forward Shawn Kemp from the Seattle SuperSonics in a three-team trade, and Wesley Person from the Phoenix Suns in another three-team trade.
The Cavaliers also added four rookies — Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Brevin Knight, Derek Anderson and Cedric Henderson.
Cleveland put together a 10-game winning streak during the season to help it return to the postseason after a one-year absence.
Kemp led the Cavaliers in scoring and rebounding and was selected for the All-Star Game, which would be his sixth and final All-Star appearance.
Ilgauskas and Knight were both selected to the All-Rookie first team, while Anderson and Henderson both made the All-Rookie second team.
PACERS: BUILT TO WIN NOW
While those Cavaliers were regarded as an up-and-coming squad, built around Kemp and the four rookies, the Pacers were a different animal, entirely.
With the legendary Larry Bird at the helm, Indiana finished 58-24 in his first season on the bench.
The Pacers acquired All-Star forward Chris Mullin from the Golden State Warriors in the offseason, but struggled out of the gate, dropping five of their first seven games. However, they then caught fire, winning 15 of their next 18 games, also finishing the season on a roll, winning their last 11 games.
Reggie Miller, Rik Smits and Bird represented the Eastern Conference at the All-Star Game. Bird was also named Coach of The Year.
Following is a look back at that first-round playoff series between Cleveland and Indiana.
April 23, 1998, at Market Square Arena
Indiana 106, Cleveland 77
The battled-tested Pacers overwhelmed the young Cavaliers, racing to a 31-18 lead after one quarter, building it to 63-41 by halftime and cruising to the win.
Mullin (20 points), Miller (19), Dale Davis (12) and Smith (10) all reached double figures, while point guard Mark Jackson had nine points and 10 assists.
Kemp led Cleveland with 25 points and 13 boards, while Ilgauskas had 16 points, 10 boards and two blocks and Anderson added 10 points.
April 25, 1998, at Market Square Arena
Indiana 92, Cleveland 86
In a complete reversal from Game 1, the Cavaliers came roaring out of the gate, leading after one quarter, 29-19, leading by as many as 18 points in the second quarter before settling for a 51-40 lead at halftime.
However, the Pacers righted the ship, outscoring the Cavaliers in the third quarter, 29-16, to take a 69-67 lead into the fourth quarter, where they outscored Cleveland 23-19 to take a 2-0 series lead.
Miller (18 points), Dale Davis (17 points, 10 rebounds), Jalen Rose (17 points), Jackson (12 points, 11 assists) and Antonio Davis (10 points) led the way for Indiana.
Kemp had 27 points and nine boards to lead Cleveland, while Ilgauskas put up a double-double with 25 and 10. However, Person (10) was the only other Cavalier to reach double figures.
April 27, 1998, at Gund Arena
Cleveland 86, Indiana 77
It took Cleveland a quarter to find its footing, trailing by five points after one quarter, 27-22, but the Cavaliers shut down the Pacers the rest of the way, not allowing them to score even 20 points in any of the final three quarters.
Kemp (31 points, 7 rebounds), Ilgauskas (13 points), Knight (11 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists) and Anderson (11 points, 5 rebounds) led the way for the winners.
Smith led the Pacers with 26 points and added eight rebounds, while Miller (18), Dale Davis (11 points, 9 boards) and Jackson (17 assists) also made contributions.
April 30, 1998
Indiana 80, Cleveland 74
Poor second and third quarters ended up costing Cleveland in the end, as Indiana outscored the Cavaliers in the second (20-13) and third (21-18) quarters to build a 66-54 lead after three.
Cleveland rallied to outscore Indiana in the fourth, 20-14, but could never quite get over the hump and saw its season come to a close.
Miller (19 points), Smith (17), Mullin (12) and Antonio Davis (11) led a balanced Indiana attack.
Kemp (21 points, 12 boards), Anderson (18), Ilgauskas (15) and Anderson (15) reached double figures for the Cavaliers.
Indiana advanced to the second round, where it eliminated New York in five games to reach the Eastern Conference Finals against the Chicago Bulls. The Pacers went toe-to-toe with Michael Jordan & Co. before falling in a hard-fought, seven-game battle, which sent the Bulls to the Finals, where they defeated the Utah Jazz in six games.
Meanwhile, that was the high-water mark for that bunch of Cavaliers, mostly because Kemp all but ate himself out of the league.
The Cavaliers would not reach the playoffs again until 2006.