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It will be business as usual for the Cleveland Cavaliers when the playoffs tip off this weekend as the three-time defending Eastern Conference champions take on the Indiana Pacers in a best-of-seven, first-round series for the second straight season.
The Cavaliers (50-32) seemed satisfied with where they stand after completing the regular season Wednesday night against New York.
“We’re one of 16 teams that has a chance to win a championship,” LeBron James said after the game. “That’s all you can ask for.”
Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue, who stepped away from the team to address health issues and missed nine games, realizes its been a rollercoaster season for his squad.
“It has been pretty crazy,” he said. “Through all the craziness and moving parts and moving pieces, I thought we did a good job of staying together.”
For James, his 15th regular season ranks with the best in his spectacular career.
He ends it averaging 27.5 points, 8.6 rebounds and 9.1 assists per game, the latter two categories being career-highs, snapping Michael Jordan’s record for consecutive games scoring 10 points or more, which will stand at 873 when next season begins.
James also played in all 82 games in a regular season, in his age-33 campaign, while also leading the league in minutes played.
“Has it been my best year?” James asked rhetorically. “It’s the best I felt all season and I’ve got the numbers to back it up and the wins to back it up.”
Most importantly, James is pleased with where he’s at with another playoff run about to begin. He has been to seven consecutive NBA Finals, the first four with Miami and the last three with Cleveland.
“I feel pretty good,” James said. “It was a long, strenuous season, but I feel pretty good going into the postseason.”
Entering the postseason as the fourth seed in the East, Lue has faith his squad will answer the bell and get the job done.
“‘As The Land Turns’ is what I call it. It’s something different every year,” he said. “We always find a way.
“That’s the biggest thing.”
If the Cavaliers do indeed “find a way” to win the title this season — as a four seed — they will make NBA history.
Only one team seeded fourth or lower has won a championship since the NBA began seeding for the playoffs — the 1995 Houston Rockets.
That team, coached by Rudy Tomjanovich and featuring the likes of Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler, Otis Thorpe, Robert Horry, Vernon Maxwell, Kenny Smith, Mario Elie and Sam Cassell, went 47-35 and finished third in the Midwest Division before catching fire in the playoffs, capping its run by sweeping the Orlando Magic in the Finals.
“It depends on which Cavs teams shows up,” James said of Cleveland’s opening-round matchup with the Indiana. “We have the ability to be very dynamic. We’re still missing one of our key guys in Rodney Hood. We expect him to be ready for Game 1. Indiana can create some problems as well. Their All-Star in (Victor) Oladipo and all those other guys off him, they play so well off him. Just got to be ready for that, got to be ready for what they bring to the table.”